Saturday, June 30

Digital


Eitan inhales the new technologies swirling around him ( for an 11-year old, there is no  "new" technology).  For instance he easily outpaces me on the once-so-simple television remote control as today's standard includes a pre-record and stop-motion and mode and source control and red, green,  yellow and blue  buttons each doing something presumably. There is a media.p button, subt. , TTX/MIX, pre-ch., tools and ten other things I cannot use. Today's viewer, excluding over-40s, can go inter-active or surf the web from the TV. I can watch my images and digital video if I knew how.  All I want, really, is 'Law And Order" re-runs and maybe some sport or the occasional 'Mad Men" DVD but even this makes me a dinosaur : the modern family stores its content on a communal hard drive while "films" accessed from the cloud. In a couple years Eitan will own us.  Mind you, I founded an Internet company.

Friday, June 29

Summertime - Dirty Banks - Madeleine Quotes


Photo from about this time of year, 2004, in Richmond Park.

The school has their sports day (Madeleine explains) " there are color teams, and each team has to sprint and do obstacles and stuff.  Long jump, vortex, and stuff like that.  In the end, the team with the most points, for individual races, wins.   The color teams are red, green blue and yellow, for years three, four, five and six."

By happy coincidence Eitan and Madeleine on the red team, which was last one year ago but first today (Eitan co-captain).  Madeleine and Eitan contribute with wins in the "long distance" or six laps around the school's grass fields.  Afterwards Sonnet rewards the kiddies with a treat at The Victoria.

Barclays fined £290 million for manipulating libor (the London inter-bank borrowing rate) for years including the financial crisis when banks almost burned the house down (dirtbag traders - we've seen them at Enron. We know them from Wall St).  But why stop there ? The FSA also announces this week that the same banks have mis-sold complex derivatives to SMEs. The prospect of a Levenson-like inquiry floated in the commons; a criminal investigation proceeds.  And one must ask : how did we get here ?

Madeleine raises her hand at the dinner table: "I have a random fact."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "Do you know why they call the Oscar "Oscar"? "
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "Because the person who made the trophy thought that it looked like her Uncle Oscar."
Eitan: "That's not so."
Madeleine: "Is so. I read it in a book. At school."
Me: "Thank you Madeleine, it makes sense to me."

Kamila: "What's the capital of Germany?"
Madeleine: "Helsinki?"
Me:
Madeleine: "No, wait, it's Switzerland . .."
Me: "That's it. Atlas. Now."

Later, me: "Madeleine, where is Helsinki please?"
Madeleine: "I can never remember that one .. ."
Me: "You have to know the capitals kiddo."
Madeleine: "Oh, wait, once you gave me a postcard from Helsinki and it said 'Finland' on the back. It's Finland!"
Me: "Excellent, nice work."
Madeleine: "Thank goodness for my memory."

Thursday, June 28

Lamp Shade And Davy


Sonnet this morning.  We are up late with guests of Dafna and Charles, who host the perfect dinner party on a lovely London evening, cocktails beforehand on the patio while Dafna's children do cartwheels on the lawn.

Madeleine has Year 5 performance so I walk over to the school and take a seat (school chairs all the same - stackable).  The dears perform a long poem with each child from two classes participating once or twice (I can't follow a thing) then a rousing medley of Davy Jones, RIP, which reminds me of my love of the Monkees and classics like "Daydream Believer", "I'm A Believer" and of course the theme from The Monkees show, which I once watched between episodes of Giligan's Island and the Brady Bunch on any school day afternoon at a friend's house since we had a strict no-TV on any school day afternoon. I recall like yesterday Davy guest starring on the Brady Bunch fulfilling Marcia's teen crush. So innocent. So groovy.

I whip back to the now.  Madeleine has another five or six years until she plays Marcia Brady but here she is now, singing away, next to Marcus, Alex and Niki, having a great time in front of the other children and us adults.

"It's so beneficial for me to be away from those children in junior high and to be with people of my own mature growth. I'm looking forward to the intellectual stimulation. Nice meeting you boys. Bye."
--Marcia Brady, The Brady Bunch

Tuesday, June 26

DE Baldy


Dave in town with his family and last night he, and his precocious daughter 'bella, join us for dinner.  I have known him since the 7th grade when he took King Jr High by storm singing Steve Wonder's "Happy Birthday" in honour of Martin Luther King day.  Many of us who were there still talk about it now.  Dave's music has always inspired : by 9th grade he was in The Uptowns, a band that was covered on Rolling Stone magazine; post college it was The Charlie Hunter Trio which sold-out the SF's Elbow Room and where I took Sonnet to impress her ; then a #1 jazz billboard album ("State Of Mind" in 2006), record deals with Blue Note and Fantasy .. . and of course Donny Osmond.

Dave a natural instructor and listens to Madeleine's trumpet, tapping a tempo and correcting a few notes. He gives advise on the dangerous first note (breath in twice then out once); Madeleine totally comfortable and Sonnet remarks privately : "I've never heard her play like that."


Of all my friends, Dave shares my temperament the most.  When together we act, well, like 15 year-olds giggling away.  A mention of "Purple Rain" gets a chuckle while "Lake Minnetonka" a belly roll : recall Prince plays, simply, "The Kid", who woos Appolonia, famously getting her to skinny dip in Minnetonka before he teases her with his purple motorcycle. Loving 1984. Dave had the poster on his wall.  Madeleine and Sonnet bemused as we trade insults.

The Kid:  "Come on, let's go."
Apollonia: "I'm not going anywhere, that was a rotten thing to do."
The Kid: "I'm sorry. I tried to stop you."
[She looks at him]
Apollonia: " I must have looked pretty ridiculous."
The Kid: "No, no! You looked great. That took some nerve, I wouldn't have got in that water. Come on."
[She attempts to get on the motorcycle, he drives away]
Apollonia: "Hey!"
The Kid: " Come on."
[She attempts to get on the motorcycle again, he drives away again]
Appolonia: "COME ON!"
The Kid: "OK, ok."
[She gets on]
The Kid: "Don't get my seat all wet."
--Prince and Apollonia Kotero try to act in Purple Rain

Sunday, June 24

Whatzit


This what-ever-it-is found in Eitan's classroom. I never built such cool stuff in sixth grade.

Madeleine at a swimming gala today and swims six events covering front-crawl, relay, backstroke, breast stroke and butterfly (she tells me). Her favourite race : 66 meters backstroke (Dad's note: many London pools 33-meters), where she comes in third of "quite a lot" and brings home a bronze medal; our gal also collects four ribbons for her superior efforts.  Regarding goals, "I want to get a PB of ten seconds in two lengths front-crawl" ; she is otherwise bashful about posting her times on my blog.

Saturday, June 23

Subway And Hampton


I love this girl, who flops down across from me, adjusts herself, and dives into a book on the philosophy of ethics.

Eitan and I attend the Hampton school welcoming morning. The Head Master tells us 470 boys sat the entrance exam and 120 accepted; he also notes that 57 primary and preparatory schools represented with 28 supplying one child (Sheen Mount sends five).  The boys encouraged to throw themselves into arts, music, drama and the many clubs : Eitan sits at rapt attention.  Hampton organised around twenty academic departments covering maths to government: Eitan will study Spanish and Latin along with everything else. There are 18 sports teams including football, which won the Independent Schools U18 finals in March. Homework to be one hour a night with two "homework holidays" each year to chill or catch up.  Oh, boy, it is going to be great.  Eitan may enjoy it, too.

Thursday, June 21

City's Edge


I have visited the top floor of this building , pictured, which is also Henderson Asset Mgmt hq and the eastern edge of The City, London's financial centre. Liverpool station, London's Grand Central station, a few blocks away.  The area between here and Canary Wharf to the south and the Olympic village to the north (both about five miles) is mostly derelict and here lies the potential : link the East End to London's centre via new transportation and, voila, housing shortage solved.  Something to consider when, as reported on BBC4 this morning, London expects to gain 1 million residents in twenty-five years.

The amount of new development across London staggering. There is barely a block unloved by developers who add sleek new urban architecture like the the Shard. The last time the city saw this sort of build up was the '60s post Second World War construction surge leaving us with concrete and asbestos edifices that mold away unloved or torn down.

My first London job, with buyout firm Botts & Co., in Lintas House , EC4A, once cutting edge and now simply gone : replaced by the sharp angles, black granite glass metal sky-rises+trendy sushi-coffee expresses of New Fetter Place. Also gone is the sun and any sense of humour.

And The World Goes Round


Shoe Shop



Shoreditch


"On the map, Shoreditch looks pretty much like everywhere else in the great stew of London. But behind the mild-mannered street plaan lies a raving exhibitionist. Shoreditch has more in common with Brooklyn than it does with Islington. It's been dropped here from the planet me, me, me. It's so cool, so vain, so self-obsessed that it's twinned with itself. Shoreditch is granny's knick-knack cabinet of china ornaments, all of them reborn as irony."

AA Gill's description Shoreditch pretty much nails it. Sonnet and I check out antique furniture from the 1950s to modern household trotchkees. I buy a Finnish-design staple remover and the bearded cashier in espadrilles tells me: "good purchase" without showing an emotion. His co-cashier dressed exactly the same in a Chinese modernist kind of style. I take note.

From there we hang out in Hoxton Sq, which is filled with lush trees and surrounded by bars, coffee houses and companies called "M2".  Hoxton become Ɯbercool when the gays moved in probably about the time we arrived in London. It was urban, cheep and accepting; now it is expensive: a 2 bedroom flat goes for at least £1 million and loft-like accommodations up to £3M. Since the afternoon sunny, the square filled with loungers and nappers and for an instant I can picture myself living here. Then I can't.
.
Dave Ellis arrives from the US with his family

Wednesday, June 20

Forty-Five 45 XLV 3^2*5

Another day, another year . Yes, 45 which I  suppose a milestone since it is on a sequence of fives.  Usually I am rather melancholy on my birthday but today different : first off, it is sunny for  the first time in, like, months. My morning begins in Eitan's classroom helping friend Lorena teach a business module on starting and financing a company (I am the venture capitalist which means Eitan's group chooses the bank loan ...). From there I meet Sonnet for lunch at hole-in-the-wall Viet Namese in East London ; we have soft shelled crabs and other unrecognisable things that are delicious. Then we explore Hoxton and Shoreditch, where Sonnet takes this photo.

Tuesday, June 19

Chas's Wedding - 1996



All Stars



Eitan's All Stars win their home tournament, including 120 teams covering all ages, in fine fashion going 3-1-1 in the qualifying rounds followed by tight games in the quarter and semi-finals against Staines Albion and Carshalton.  The tension elevates as the boys progress - at least, elevates on the sidelines. The oos and ahs fairly contained compared to Brixham but then, this is Surrey, one of the civilised 'home counties'.  The final against Cheam, a good team with an oversized goalie who dwarfs the net and,  despite his extra weight, leaps into the air to make several spectacular, game changing, saves.  Our boys go up 1-nil but the equaliser falls shortly after the half (in the back of my mind I think : PKs and poor Eitan. No kid wants this kind of drama).  Coach yells at our strikers to hit low and hard and Rob puts one in for the 2-1 victory. Elm Grove hang on to the last three minutes including a sure-goal by Cheam which clanks off the post. The cup ours.

Monday, June 18

Bob


Bob the father-in-law of Elm Grove coach Marc and Grandfather of Denise, a fiery midfielder.  Bob also a retired postman who walked the beat for 30 years, rain or shine.

On the football pitch.
Phil: "When I was police we used to see all kinds of horrible things with drink and driving. I was called out to 34 fatalities around here.  You don't forget that sort of thing."
Bob: "When they made drink and drive illegal, the coppers got quite particular about things, pulling people over, giving them a warning. I couldn't be bothered."
Me: "When was that ? "
Bob: "1966. So I quit driving."
Phil: "You gave up your license ?"
Bob: "Of course I didn't. I keep it right here in me pocket."
Phil: "That expired . .. 45 years ago."
Bob: "It's still a license though isn't it ?"
Me: "Have you had a drink since then?"
Bob: "Oh heavens me yes. Why do you think I stopped driving ?"

Bob: "I see you enjoy reading there."
Me, reading 'War and Peace":
Bob: "I read a good one once. 'The Worm That Forgave The Plow.'"
Me: "The Worm That Forgave The Plow' ? "
Bob: " The Worm That Forgave The Plow.' "
Me: "I've not heard of it."
Bob: "It's a story about the Second World War, written in 1939 .. ."
Me: "So when England declares war on Germany then?"
Bob: "It's a real corker. About how a farmer learns how to forgive his enemy.. ."
Me:
Bob: "Of course we bombed Germany like nobody's business. .."

Sunday, June 17

Chocolate Pie


Eitan loves to cook. It is has been a passion, right up there with football, for as long as I can remember (Sonnet recalls baking pancakes with Eitan who would stand on a chair to reach the counter. He was two).  Now the boy makes a chocolate pie, pictured. I ask why he enjoys cooking ? "I like everyone's reaction if they like it."

Madeleine shops with Sonnet: "Can I get dad a present? "
Sonnet: "For Father's Day? Of course.. ."
Madeleine: "I am going to get him this bag of Coca Cola gummy bears. .. "

Madeleine enters my bedroom as I read:  "Dad, I got you a present a day early. Do, you want to open it now ?"
Me: "Sure, honey, that was nice of you."
Madeleine: "You might not like it though. It's Coca Cola gummy bears."
Me:
Madeleine: "Do you like it?"
Me: "I like that you got me a gift, which was very thoughtful of you." 
Madeleine: "So you don't like Coca Cola gummy bears."
Me: "They are not my favourite."
Madeleine: "Well if you don't like them, I can always have them."
Me: "Good idea. Why don't you take them."
Madeleine: "OK."
Me: "And thank you again for my gift."
Madeleine: "You are welcome."
Me to Sonnet: "That one was win-win."
Sonnet: "That kid is more clever than we give her credit for."

Saturday, June 16

Synthpop


Madeleine and I walk the dog on way to drama class (don't be fooled by the sunshine as it rains as I write).  I use these opportunities to discuss topics a couple years ahead of their time (or maybe not) : sex, drugs and rock and roll. As ever and every kid, she is mortified that I may raise such subjects, especially outside, where anybody can hear us though nobody inside a quarter mile. That's the way it goes : better educated and awkward than the other way.

Eitan and Georgia filled with joy as they learn swim practise cancelled (unfortunately, the discovery made at Crystal Palace and a 6:30AM wake-up call).  This continues the good vibe from last night's England-Sweden Euro Cup match which the three lions win 3-2 in an exciting game with us down 2-1 in the second half.  Sonnet marks the living room for a carpet and some furniture.  I drink coffee and listen to the Human League's "Don't You Want Me Baby" on Spotify - a classic, of course, but I was ridiculed for seeing them in concert in '98 or '99 with ABC ("Look Of Love" and "Shoot That Poison Arrow (Through My Heart)") and Heaven 17 ("Temptation").  So Eighties synthpop. So fine.

Eitan: "Will you stop dancing. Please."

"If you judge a book by the cover,
Then you'd judge the look by the lover
I hope you'll soon recover,
Me I go from one extreme to another"

--"Look of Love", ABC (1981)

Friday, June 15

Post Facto


Sonnet and her colleague Oriel - the two have been together since the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Me: "Do you and Eitan discuss me and your mother ?"
Madeleine: "No ?"
Me: "Katie and I used to talk about your Grandparents, but I think that was more like in college.  One day it will be the most interesting thing in the world to you and your brother, discussing all those things your mom and I did to mess you up."
Madeleine: "Yeah, like wearing a cow suit to school so we had to pretend you weren't our Dad."
Me:
Madeleine: "Or that time you were pushing me on the swing and I fell off and there were two big bruises on my bottom."
Me: "Yep. Or when I asked you to pull up your pants, when I really meant trousers, in front of all you friends."
Madeleine: "Or remember that time when you were in my class and you said 'let me get a little more comfortable' then you took off your trousers."
Me: "I did ? "
Madeleine: "You were telling a story about surfing or something. I nearly died."
Me: "Boy you and Eitan are going to have a lot to talk about."
Madeleine: "Yep."

Thursday, June 14

Final Days


Eitan coasting his last two months of primary school. I learn they are no longer doing maths nor English or history instead focusing on the year-six production (a play the seniors put on each year) and the yearbook. It does raise my eyebrow yet he and Madeleine have earned an easy summer. September will be a splash of cold water.

Sonnet, over dinner: "What do you guys think about changing our diet and making it healthier ?"
Madeleine: "Like no treats?"
Sonnet: "No more chocolate. Or ice cream."
Eitan: "You mean Dad's diet. .."
Sonnet: "No more biscuits"
Me: "Finished those last night."
Eitan: "See?"
Sonnet: "And replace white flour with whole wheat flour."
Me: "There goes our favorite pizzas."
Madeleine, Eitan:
Me: "No more chips and salsa . ."
Eitan:
Me: "Hummus and salty peanuts. ."
Eitan: "Only you eat those things."
Me: "After dinner cheese . .."
Sonnet: "You sent me an email saying to hide all the junk food ... ."
Madeleine: "So why are you punishing us?"

Harvey Nichols


Harvey Nics in Knightsbridge has their yearly 50% sale - presumably so exciting that the female model and, by association, all women, wet themselves in anticipation of buying their designer labels cheap (the ad cropped in later additions of The Times). This from the purveyors of taste and good style.

Wednesday, June 13

515


Eitan and Madeleine participate in their last borough championships on a lovely sunny morning (a brief respite from the miserable spring weather we have so far not enjoyed).  The competitions opened by our handsome young MP Zac Goldsmith, a conservative Tory who has done more than perhaps anybody to block the Heathrow third-runway. God bless. Both kids compete the 600-meters "long distance" race and it is interesting to see the inexperienced athletes blast off then collapse by the straight-away; a hard lesson learnt.  Madeleine blasts off and finishes in a dog fight for first, second or third place - last year she was pipped at the end of her heat so her goal to win.  She is all determination and a real street-fighter on the track, which makes me proud. In the end, she ties for second; later on she is first in the sprints. Superstar.

Eitan , for his part, hangs back and allows the front-runner to do the hard work. He throws in his kick with 150 meters to go and wins handily.  Sonnet and I return to work despite the sunshine.

Tuesday, June 12

A Moving Comedy


By New York and SF friend Celine Gouillou.

Monday, June 11

Sunday, June 10

Le Bain De Mer


I snap this photo from an ad on the Paris Metro where I am this late evening.  The contrast with the otherwise disinterested Parisians interests me  : "you can have this," the bather suggests (or maybe even "you can have me").  Do they want it, skipping between tunnels, no natural light ? London's underground ads are less nude.

So this puts me in the frame of .. age nine : Donovan (a bad kid whose parents were hippies) and I used to bike on our choppers ( baseball cards in spokes) to 7-11 on Solano for super-hero Slurpees and comic books and a brief scan of Playboy which, back then, was not behind the counter requiring an adult engagement. This my first look at a woman's figure. How innocent compared to a few clix on the Internet.  From then to the metro : that glance remains as fascinating as ever.

The family hunkers down to watch "Rambo" which has captured Madeleine's imagination (being rated '15'  gives the film further cred).  Despite all the retreads and subsequents, Stallone created two indelible heroes : Rocky the underdog and Rambo the forgotten vet. Both use violence to express themselves and we root for them all the way.

Saturday, June 9

Boot Camp


Madeleine joins the commandos for Zac's birthday party.

And, since nobody seems to really care, here is Britain currently at war: British troops have been based in Afghanistan since the US-Led invastion in 2001. Currently, under Operation Herrick, the Army maintains troops in Camp Souter, Kabuul and a brigade on 6-monthly rotation in the southern province of Helmand, mostly based in Camp Bastion and forward operating bases. In late 2009, the resident brigade is 11 Brigade. This brigade has previously served tours in Afghanistan. In 2009, the then Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth announced British troop numbers in Afghanistan to increase by 500 to a new high of more than 9,500 by late 2009 (from BBC news).

"What I have said is, people in Britain should understand we're not going to be there in five years' time, in 2015, with combat troops or large numbers because I think it's important to give people an end date by which we won't be continuing in that way."
--David Cameron, UK Prime Minister

"We should be thinking in terms of decades."
--Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles,  Foreign Secretary's Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan 

"Can we watch Rambo?"
--Madeleine

Friday, June 8

Lady Helen Melons


The Lady Helen Taylor (Helen Marina Lucy Taylor, nee Windsor, born 28 April 1964) is a first cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II. She is the great-granddaughter of King George V and is in the line of succession to the British throne.  Her nickname is 'Melons' because of her ample bosom.

Madeleine Reports


Yep, Friday.  Madeleine reads me her first assignment, pictured - a three page story - about a creature she names 'Eric' : not quite human , not quite Stuart Little. Our dear still owes me a book report by this evening of the same length , which may prove problematic as she is (cleverly) at Zac's all-day birthday party.  Eitan, for his part, has yet to crack War And Peace (recall he is tasked with a five page written assessment on the first chapters) and he groans when I remind him it is also due today.  We haggle a bit (he, indignantly : "How can I write five pages about 50 pages ?") and I relent , allowing him to choose the book which will probably be "The Hunger Games" which he re-reads.

I had to do these sorts of things once or twice for Moe and Grace : I remember one miserable summer afternoon writing about the great white shark which was mostly a retelling of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Am I stronger for it today ? You bet.

"The great white shark is a species of shark.  This fish is a good swimmer and is the world's largest predatory fish.. Great white sharks have about 3,000 teeth, arranged in many rows. The first two rows of the teeth are used for grabbing and cutting the animals they eat, while the other teeth in the last rows replace the front teeth when they are broken, worn down, or when they fall out. The teeth have the shape of a triangle with jags on the edges. Great white sharks eat fish and other animals, for example seals and sea lions."
--The great white shark from the Encyclopedia Britannica

Thursday, June 7

The Illustrated Man (1920-2012)


I discovered Ray Bradbury, who has died age 92, in seventh grade 'reading period' (twenty minutes between morning classes) at King Jr High. Most of the kids goofed or napped but I could not wait to dive into 'The Rocket' or 'The Long Rain' : Astronauts stranded on Venus, where it rains non-stop. The men make their way towards a "sun dome" - a shelter with a large artificial light source. The first one they find destroyed by the Venetians. Searching for another sun dome the men driven to madness and suicide by the unrelenting rhythm of the rain.  By the end, only one sane astronaut remains (and finds a functional sun dome).

I still mull this over in my mind from time to time before falling asleep.

Wednesday, June 6

Half Term Hols - Energy Use


Here is something to consider : In 2012/11, we spent £26.250 and £57.750 a day on electricity and gas. From April 1, 2010 to March 31 , our household consumed 13,348 KWh of electricity and 35,683 KWh of gas.  According to UK charity Homesave, the national averages for a four bedroom house (ours) is 6,000 and 29,000 KWh for electricity and gas, respectively.  This ain't good.

Gallery



Sonnet's Ballgowns in the New York Times : "Gowns for Belles of the Ball at the Victoria and Albert Museum". Says Sonnet: “When the Queen ended Court presentations in 1958, it signalled a shift toward informality.”  Note the original terracotta floors which, until a recent re-do of the fashion gallery, carpeted.

Today Sonnet moves "upstairs" at the museum, away from the daily hustle and bustle of , you know, a normal job, to work solely on 'La Moda,' her 2014 major exhibition on Italian fashion. She also completes a book on London fashion in the '80s.

Little Rhody Is Miss USA


And just like that, a little girl's dreams can come true! Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island named Miss USA and will represent the United States at the Miss Universe pageant later this year.  Having once lived in , and painted, Providence, RI, I feel a special affinity towards Olivia's ambition.

Culpo, 20, competed in the traditional swimsuit and evening gown competitions at the Las Vegas pageant, but also answered a question about an issue that earlier this year 'vexed' the organisers of the Miss Universe pageant in Canada : Culpo was asked if it is fair that a transgender woman would win Miss USA over a natural born woman, and she answered, "I do think that would be fair, but I can understand that people would be a little apprehensive to take that road."  The starlet continued: "So many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life. I do accept that because I believe it is a free country."

Meanwhile, according to Fortune Magazine, there are 12 women CEOs of US Fortune 500 companies. The number of female directors on corporate boards is 12.6%.

Since this is half-term, I task Madeleine with a three-page written story and a three-page book report (Our Dear protests but chooses "War Horse", which she has read, over the first 50-pages of War And Peace, which I assign to Eitan). No way  Sonnet and I raising a pretty face, whatever Madeleine's life goals may be or become.

Tuesday, June 5

Dot



Venus cuts across the sun in one of the rarest astronomical events - it won’t happen again for the next 105 years (photo from the AP). Only six transits of Venus observed since the advent of astronomical instruments, with the earliest known passage marked in 1639, says Joe Rao of NYC’s Hayden Planetarium . We are but a spec of dust and some peat moss, no more.

The Venus transit reminds me of the B movie "Pitch Black" starring Vin Dissel : A spaceship crash-lands on barren and hot desert-scape with sunlight from three suns.  When the planet engulfed in darkness by an eclipse, which happens every 22 years, the survivors hunted by the planet's flesh-eating alien inhabitants, as they come to the surface to hunt and eat all signs of life . ..

On the space alien theme, I was going to see Ridley Scott's "Prometheus", which is the pre-Story of "Alien", only Sonnet has to spend this evening at a speed-awareness course for a driving violation : she was going 36 mph in a 30mph zone (for Pete's sake). And this a bank holiday to boot.

Me: "What do you think of Aliens?"
Eitan: "What?"
Me: "Aliens, like do they exist?"
Eitan: "No."
Me: "You seem pretty confident."
Eitan: "Is this for your blog?"

Block Party


We have a merry old celebration toasting Queen Elizabeth II and singing "God Save The Queen".  A DJ sparks things up with modern muzak and the caterers roast a pig. Our house tasked with cupcakes for the table and Eitan and Madeleine go to work.  All this organised by Cathy (an American of course).  I hang a Union flag from the second floor window. Note the absence of rain.

Our neighbour Martin, who was born in his house, recalls the Queen's coronation in '52, which he watched at Trafalgar Square, climbing on shoulders to see the action. Why Trafalgar Sq? It was the central point of the procession so Martin got three looks at Royal carriage and other dignitaries : the Queen of Tonga, he tells me, "so fat her carriage tilted."  Martin BTW not the oldest on our our block : that honour goes to Richard, a CBE, also born in his house, seven years before Martin (recall Martin a part of the Second World War evacuation which he explained , patiently, to Madeleine when she studied this period in school).

I meet Dominic who is a retired art dealer who spent his spare time foraging car boot sales for under-valued treasures : he made enough to buy a detached property nearby us and now 'day trades' one mineral-rights stock which, he notes, "swings 50 points a day - more than enough volatility for me."  Munir, to my right, a self-made accountant from India - he trained as a mechanical engineer but when Britain junked its manufacturing for services in the '80s and '90s, he was forced to pursue a different profession.  Munir's shy pretty daughter hangs on Munir's shoulder; she is one year older than Eitan , and now attends the Tiffen School for Girls - one of the most selective independents in London.  Munir tells me the Queen stands for family values otherwise lost in this country. I don't take the bait.

Sometimes I feel like an alien in a strange land.

"God save the queen
The fascist regime
They made you a moron
Potential H-bomb

"God save the queen
She ain't no human being
There is no future
In England's dreaming"
--God Save The Queen", the Sex Pistols

Monday, June 4

Murder

Phil prepares for England v Belgium. He has a genuine wit and unafraid to walk the villa in his pants - not something I would otherwise wish to see in the morning. His son Alphie a crack goalie who has saved many a game for Elm Grove; Phil runs up-and-down the pitch barefoot calling 'offsides' as needed. He was London police for 30 years - now retired - and we compare thoughts on various neighbourhoods. 

Phil tells me the worst on his beat was Brixton, where he was during the '81 riots : Following weeks of smouldering tensions, April 11 erupted in violence (dubbed "Bloody Saturday")  resulting in 280 injuries to police and 45 injuries to the public while over a hundred vehicles burned, including 56 police cars; and almost 150 buildings damaged, with thirty torched. Maybe 5,000 people involved leading to 82 arrests.  Mean streets.  Queue Margaret Thatcher.

Road Show


Eitan's Elm Grove in tournament action over the long-weekend so we drive to Torquay , which is also known as the English Riviera , but reminds me of Daly City.  We stay on grounds organised by the tournament hosts - maybe 25 club teams - and it is close-quarters : seven of us in a cabin.

The weekend all about the football and Day 1 sees the All Stars in four games, winning three including the Yellows, who have six lads playing with academy clubs (do note the line at the bap stand beyond Eitan which announces boldly : "sensational food.") This the last match of the day and sends the boys and us off on a high. And, since Britain, that means one thing : booze.

But the soccer not over as England plays Belgium in a "friendly" so we troop over to the club house, also serving as the "Tropicana", to check out the big-screens (as I show up late, the ribbing starts early). England wins 1-nil so even more reason to celebrate.

Unfortunately the weather turns from cold and overcast to cold and wet and the BBQ forced underneath a ledge and the rest of us huddle beneath an ill-suited gazebo and eat Doritos.  As it is her Majesty's 60th year on the throne, we are surrounded by cheery Union flags (only called "Union Jacks" btw if flow on one of her Majesty's Royal Navy vessels) and bunting.  The good spirits flow , along with the beef burgers, cigarettes and "Britain's Got Talent" which is on, in the background, in someone's cabin, visible through a window. I take it all in : cultural experience dude.

Friday, June 1

Diamond Jubilee


And so, Friday. This weekend celebrates the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the thrown (the actual date February 6, 1952 or when King George VI died). I am impressed by the amount of bunting in our neighborhood and everywhere.

Me: "So what makes a house valuable?"
Madeleine: "Not this again."
Me: "Seriously. You may want to buy a house one day, so why do you think they are so dear?"
Madeleine: "Because they've got plumbing?"
Me:
Madeleine: "What's so funny Dad?"
Me:
Madeleine: "I didn't want to have this conversation anyway."