Friday, July 30
Wednesday, July 28
Hotel Capitano is one block from the beach. Sonnet tells me -- and not surprisingly -- there has been a lot of development since she was here last. The beach front where we are mostly the same but behind us, towards the hills, there are new stucco condominiums in various colours; Roberto points out, horror, a grocery store. This is a small vacation town and not much more to it than that, really. An ancient railway separates the old town from the new and the train's whistle a nice reminder of the evening's hour. Yesterday we are treated to an afternoon cooling shower+rainbow then a beautiful sunset, pictured. We enjoy our last night at a small family pizzeria: Sonnet orders one with gorgonzola with radichio, another with potatoes with rosemary and a third with capers, tuna and tomatoe sauce - washed down with two large bottles of Moretti beer. I eat so much I am nearly sick. The kids stick to their salami pepperoni. Madeleine coos "the best pizza I ever had."
Tuesday, July 27
We watch a friendly crew across the day arguing, shouting and throwing down cards like nobody's business. Points are kept on a small white scratch pad. These dudes are serious. I like how the various ages find each other - the teens on one side of the lido; mums with their babies or toddlers on the beach under an umbrella or sunbathing. Old codgers .. pictured, having the most fun. Dads sit around sans shirt smoking cigarettes, yelling at the bambinis. Eitan makes a few friends on the sand football pitch .. nobody understands each other but, ah, the joy of sport. They genuinely like each other and I have to drag the boy away at sundown.
Monday, July 26
I sit at a round table blogging and watching Italian television. I recognise the show hosts, or at least their quality, having followed Silvio Berlusconi. Tonight the gals chirp away about Afghanistan and some wildlife. Roberto offers me a double-espresso even though it is after 11PM yet how can I resist? Ten years ago it would have been difficult to travel with work -- but now everything real time even at the beach or sitting, here, in the bar. Tortoreto closes early -- dinners may be late around 9 or 10PM -- followed by a stroll and then .. bed. The hotel staff walk around me preparing for tomorrow wiping tables, putting glasses in their place and smoking a fag or two outside, in the street. The visiting teenagers must be bored out of their minds but otherwise they are sure fun to watch at the lido. How cool that we will soon have a couple of them in our house. Such yuf! Such drama! Will we be prepared?
This afternoon sees some clouds and by sunset the beaches clear as the Italians away for dinner or their families. We enjoy the evening's warmth, reminding ourselves: this is not England in February. The Shakepeares enjoy their freedoms making sand-castles and eating junk food - today, for instance: breakfast, jelly donuts and coco pops; 11AM, crisps. No lunch. 2PM, gelato. To compensate, for dinner I force Eitan to eat his eggplant which draws tears of protest. I threaten to join him at the table until Midnight or until the eggplant gone. He tentatively forks the eggplant then makes regurgitation noises before anything in his mouth. The two tables nearby us stair. I order him: eat! He chews a few times then swallows, grimacing in pain. Even Madeleine stops what she is doing (making a doll with a wine cork and toothpicks) to watch how far dad will go to prove a point. Eat, I command. The next bite goes down just as dramatically leaving one more strip+a plate of tomatoes. Sonnet suggests I am being a bit rough on the boy but then: 100 others are eating the God damn eggplant. Eitan can, too. Madeleine offers to share his piece but no: he.. will.. eat.. the eggplant himself. Finally he finishes leaving the tomatoes. I decide the tomatoes a battle for another night. What theatre.
We walk through the inhabited 14th century village before the fortress (the modern escalators of course "guasto"). Here one may find the narrowest street in Italy set up, I am sure, 500 years ago for i turisti. The kids, by this point, so tired they are in tears so we sit themin front of a gilat doppio at the bar - nobody bats an eye. The photo, from the www, does not show the mountains behind us nor give a sense of the steep hillside which made this such an important, and impenetrable, military installation.
Sunday, July 25
I awake this morning to espresso and Mirella's morning lemon cake which is fabuloso. The kids smother theirs with Nutello and blast off. We have another espresso with the neighbors. Costantinos is adding four bedrooms to his house ("Normally I start with the house then the swimming pool. But I wanted to use the pool before I was 70."). Since he is learning as he goes, we practices with a dog-house for the four dogs ("la familia"; Madeleine smitten). Yes, I am invited to help which, a bit slow from montepulciano+30 degrees by 9AM, not my first idea for the morning but it turns into joy: we rip off a roof, pull and hammer nails, re-roof and cover with insulation... shirts off, yelling at the women or the bambinis .. all the while giving each other grief (him: "la professora"; me: "the apprentice."). We quit by noon for more pasta and wine and fruit; Constantinos sings opera and I join him (montepulciano) and even the Shakespeares overcome their bashfulness. They will remember this.
Saturday, July 24
The market arrives, as it does every Saturday morning during summer, right next to our hotel filling the street with vegetables, cheeses, clothes, zucchini flowers, bracelets, bathing suits, underwear (me, loudly: "Madeleine, should we get you some pants?"), olives+an enormous roast pig sold either by weight or in buns as sandwiches which brings back memories of Lago di Albano where the Pope has his summer palace and Sonnet, Bru and I ate the most wonderful pork sandwiches and watched Roma football on a black and white television. This some many years ago now. From the stalls we head to the beach while Madeleine confined to a tee-shirt and canopy due to her delicate red skin. Our lobster is a trooper. Eitan befriends a group of seven or eight older boys who play sand football. None speak english so they point and jab at each other. Eitan's need for footie overcomes his reluctance; he has been watching them the past two days. It remains unbearably hot though I am not complaining - jogging nearly wipes me out. A summer storm blanks the beach and brings down the temps momentarily. Sonnet, Madeleine and I play "Crazy Eights" at the lido watching the storm pass over. Later, we send the Shakespeares down the block, by themselves, to get gelato. All this before lunchtime.
Friday, July 23
Thursday, July 22
Sonnet and the kids arrive yesterday in Tortoreto on Italy's eastern side straight across from Rome. I arrive today following late meetings in Knightsbridge. Tortoreto is a beach town that exists from May to September and nestled on the Abruzzo coast surrounded by dry hillsides covered by olive trees and wine vineyards; I am told by Roberto, who picks me up at the airport, that this region is known for its montelpuciano, a well regarded red wine. My photo of the Zeffiro Lido where our Hotel Capitano has its beach chairs and a crew of teen-agers hangs out infatuating on each other. I like these Italians.
Monday, July 19
As most of you may know, Sonnet has been on a work-sabbatical which ends in September. It has flown by, to, leaving me and the kids to wonder: how on earth are we going to survive when she is back at the V and A? Doomsday, prepare thyself. For now, though, Sonnet has taken control of the house re-organising about everything including the garage, put in time as a 'class rep' for Madeleine's classroom and volunteered for the Summer Fair. She has planned our summer holiday, ensures the kids greased up with sun-tan lotion every day, helps clean Tommy's cage and lends the occasional hand in the backyard.
Sonnet enforces a strict homework policy and takes Madeleine through her word-spelling over Cheerios; she reads Eitan's latest book ("Storm Breaker," kids action adventure) to make sure it is not too violent (it is pretty violent). She makes the kids school lunches, shuffles them to A) Madeleine's trumpet, B) Eitan's tutor, C) after-school football, D) swimming -- which, I might point out, is 7AM on Sunday, E) various play-dates and F) school drop-offs and pick-ups should (E) not be in effect. She gets the kids to their sleep-overs and birthday parties -- she plans Eitan's 10th which will likely involve wall-climbing.
She anticipates secondary school -- two years from now, holy cow -- attending open-houses, marking exam dates and returning admission forms; she does so without freaking the Shakespeares out ("they feel enough pressure" she says). She makes it fun. She keeps it real. And, hardest chore of all, she puts up with up with yours, truly (like today at the Embassy - near daily occurrence). Madeleine and I high-five each other: "we've got mom in the house."
Sunday, July 18
I have railed against the UK's inability to create an environment conducive for business start-ups before so I am happy to eat some words: over the last twelve months 395,327 new companies have registered at Companies House (source: electronic data publisher Bureau van Dijk). This is more than 1,000 a day. Over the last 25 years there has only been one year with more registrations - 2006-07, the height of the last boom. It is also three times the number at the equivalent time of the last recession. So what gives? Well, redundancy for one. The economy has shed nearly 2.5 million jobs since 2007 with termination packages funding new businesses. Second, the possibility of e-commerce or services driving many's ambition to have their own company. And for others: nothing concentrates the mind like walking the plank.
In the US, which faced a similar, massive, corporate downsizing in the 1980s, venture investment picked up the slack. Thanks to a number of public successes in venture-backed companies like DEC, Apple and Genetech, the Valley grew from a few dozen firms, including Bill's Centennial funds, to over 650 by the end of the 1980s, each searching for the next Big Thing. While the number of firms may have multiplied, the capital increased by only 11% from $28 billion to $31 billion (source: Andrew Pollack, NYT, 1989). The result: companies raising venture capital had to remain capital-efficient, not wasting a penny. This period set the stage for California's golden-era of venture capital from 1985 to 1995 when companies like Microsoft created billions of value; by 1996 we were heading into the the boom which, inevitably (sadly), resulted in hubris and the 2000 crash that Sand Hill Road still recovers from today -- many good MBAs who raised a fund in '99 or '00 will never work again. The numbers show it, to: in '94, venture investment equalled of .058% of GDP; in 2000, it was 1.087% or 19X '94 levels (yours truly jumped into the mix in '99).
Well, the point of my blog is this: corporate US was forced to modernise in the 1980s given the Japanese and other market pressures. Big Business rationalised via mergers and acquisitions and down-sizing creating America's "rust-belt" in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. It also freed up an enormous amount of baby-boomer talent still young in their careers: by 1982, unemployment was 10.8%. These dudes needed a spark and, thanks in large part to venture dollars, they started companies and unemployment fell. And fell. By Reagan's second term, America's jobless below 5.5%. Without California, the US would have looked like Germany. Or Japan today. Could the same process of rejuvenation somehow be happening in Britain today?
Madeleine: "Do hamsters always smell the same?"
Me: "Well, if a hamster sleeps in his own urine for a week he probably will smell different. If that's what you mean."
Madeleine: "I am going to clean Tommy's cage tomorrow."
Photo of Elizabeth Swann walking the plank from the WWW.
Saturday, July 17
I take an eastward photo from Vauxhall Bridge walking from the train station to Tate Britain with Sonnet and Madeleine to see the Henry Moore retrospective (Madeleine: "Oh, no, pleeaaaase not a museum. I would rather do chores"). Sonnet likes the photo as, she says, "London not recognisable from what one normally sees." We can really tell here how much water moves between high and low tide - about 70,000 million gallons. Wow. Sonnet and I have Madeleine to ourselves, an unusual pleasure, as Eitan at Luke's birthday party and overnight. After the museum we pick up several films for "movie night" - Madeleine gets "Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium" and "Night At The Museum;" she will will also make meat loaf for dinner using her grandfather's world famous recipe.
Moore rebelled against his teachers' traditional views of sculpture, instead taking inspiration from non-Western works he saw in museums. He pioneered carving directly from materials, evolving his signature abstract forms derived from the human body. This exhibition presents examples of the defining subjects of his work, such as the reclining figure, mother and child, abstract compositions and drawings of wartime London. The works are situated in the turbulent ebb and flow of twentieth-century history, sometimes uncovering a dark and erotically charged dimension that makes us look at them in a new light. The trauma of war, the advent of psychoanalysis, new ideas of sexuality, primitive art and surrealism all had an influence on Moore's work.
Highlights of the show include a group of key reclining figures carved in Elm, which illustrate the development of this key image over his career. Moore was an Official War Artist and his drawings of huddled Londoners sheltering from the onslaught of the Blitz captured the popular imagination, winning him a place in the hearts of the public. Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to truly understand this artist's much-loved work / Britain's most successful sculptor."
Thursday, July 15
Wednesday, July 14
So, Bastille Day - it commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July, 1789; the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. Le President used to give an interview to members of the press discussing, well, France like recent events and projects and stuff. Nice things. Nicolas Sarkozy has chosen not to give it. Article 17 of the Constitution of France gives the President the authority to pardon criminals and, since 1991, the President has pardoned many petty offenders (mainly traffic offices) on 14 July. President Sarkozy has declined to do so. No wonder he is unpopular.
Monday, July 12
Sonnet appropriately attired for bowling Saturday night. She is a bit concerned by her exposed midriff but I sure love looking at it. Justin BTW turns 4-0 in style, surrounded by family and friends, making sure each of us feels special. This is one of his many exceptional qualities.
Sunday, July 11
I catch this dude watching the street as a train passes by. It is about 8:30PM, hot, and noisy. I am reminded of my first apartment in New York on 6th Avenue and Waverly Street. A fire escape allowed us to sit above the pedestrians and watch the scene; in one direction we had a clear view of the World Trade Towers and the other, nondescript sky-scrapers. This was Greenwich Village and there were always hordes of people going .. somewhere. In July and August, the fire escape our only relief. We would sit out there on the summer nights and drink beer talking about ourselves or careers or relationships. The transition from college not easy and that first year seemed like a lot of make-believe. Or maybe it was practice for our so-called "adult life." I wish I could say that period was more fun but First Boston was more than I was prepared for.
We are on Brick Lane last night and wow, what a scene. Recall this in the London borough of Tower Hamlets and is the heart of the city's Bangladeshi-Sylheti community; it also known as Banglatown - there is a super-market with this name. The street is narrow and populated with curry shops whose proprietors streetside, cajoling: "please come in. Best in London." We stroll by the Great Mosque, once known as the London Jamme Masjid, which serves the largest concentration of Bangladeshi Muslims in the country. The mosque was under investigation some years ago for radicalising young men who, this evening, in shawar kamise, watch the bustle with half interest. Brick Lane once an oddity where one might go for a late dinner or the 24 hour Beigal Bakery whose salt beef sandwiches perfect for post-clubbing -- so good, in fact, the Sunday morning queues begin from 4AM. Today Brick Lane remarkably shifts into an uber cool ghetto as young gay couples and artists colonised this part of London from the late '90s. The vibe amazing - young people search for restaurants and clubs and bars, which spill into the street. Cars stall and honk away to no effect. The brick a Victorian turd brown which further defines the scene somehow. An enormous smokestack points into the sky. It is dense, man. Many of the inhabitants pierced with dyed hair and sometimes tattoos. The boys clean wearing skinny jeans+tees+brown topsiders. Tres vogue. Girls show too much t & a for their age (I will fight that battle with Madeleine when the time comes). We park on a side road in midst of council housing - concrete - massive - gruesome. But then it is relative - compared to Dhaka this might be heaven. We hide anything that might tempt fate. What a scene.
Saturday, July 10
The house falls asleep late given the July heat. This does not stop Sonnet from up-early to run a loop of Richmond Park with Stephanie. She laments afterwards: too hot. I sleep until 9AM which gets a couple of curious looks from the kids who poke their head in to see the lazy lunker that I am. Sometimes it must be done. This otherwise is a quiet week end - no football for Eitan and Madeleine leaves her swim suit at school. Smart kid.
Friday, July 9
Here we are the other day at the school pick-up. Sonnet and Ms. L may be talking about Madeleine's maths, which has improved considerably this year, or her reading - top marks. It could also be a discussion about Madeleine's friends -- all boys -- who want to play with .. other boys. Eitan went through this stage last year when girls were the enemy, so I can understand how this effects our dear, committed Tom Boy. Not easy. We keep a watchful eye including Eitan, who looks out for his sister on the playground.
Wednesday, July 7