Monday, December 31
Friday, December 28
Madeleine, cradling the cat: "You know cats can be like Wolverines?"
Me: "Oh? I wasn't aware of that."
Madeleine: "Their claws can come out like metal things."
Me: "Do you like the cat more than Rusty?"
Madeleine: "Is that a serious question?"
Me: "Who do you like more, Eitan or Rusty?"
Me: "That's the way it goes. How about me?"
Madeleine: "I am sorry to say not even close Dad."
Thursday, December 27
We check out Jasper at Obscura Digital.
Eitan, Katie and I run a familiar trail; Eitan and I do the second half, or about 2 miles, hard. We are evenly matched and, dare I say, the boy now nips me.
Eitan: "I am going to have a shower."
Me: "Just make sure you wash your hair."
Eitan: "I've washed my hair."
Me: "Oh, Really? How many times?"
Eitan: "I've washed my hair twice."
Me: "And how long have we been here?"
Eitan: "A week."
Eitan: "Ok, Ok, I will wash my hair again."
Madeleine enjoys Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's "Frequency and Volume" exhibition that "responds to the size and position of visitors' shadows on the gallery wall, encouraging participants to use their own bodies to tune in to a range of public and private radio frequencies — from commercial music stations to police bands and air traffic control."
Me: "Do you guys know what Boxing Day is?"
Eitan: "Is it a famous boxing match or something?"
Me: "Guess again."
Eitan: "Is it a day for the dead?"
Madeleine: "That's Hallow's Eve, Eitan."
Eitan: "Oh, yeah, right."
Me: "It's when the servants would get their presents."
Madeleine: "They have to wait that long?"
Me: "I guess they were happy to get something."
Madeleine: "Yeah. Having to wait must have made it worse."
Me: "Probably so."
Wednesday, December 26
We see Tim and Kitty for breakfast on the way to the airport, where I drop Sonnet off for El Lay where she will visit Catherine and see a museum or two. Last time Tim and I together, earlier this year (he reminds me) I left my driver's license in London and could not rent a car so my parents (God bless them) drove me around the Bay Area waiting in the car while I had meetings. We chuckle about this.
England's Boxing Day is the day following Christmas when servants and tradesmen receive gifts from their superiors. It is a major UK holiday and everything, excluding the retailers but including the underground, locked down tight.
Tuesday, December 25
The next two years Moe and Grace got to know each other in a village outside Lilongue, Malowi, where they taught maths and French and history. They climbed Mount Kilimanjarro and travelled the world. When it was time to return home only one city spoke to them : Berkeley, California. This was 1965 or, as Benjamin Braddock from The Graduate, noted: “Mrs. Robinson, if you don't mind my saying so, this conversation is getting a little strange.”
Moe grew a beard, passed the State Bar, and went to work at the NLRB. Grace founded a Montessori school in Oakland and Katie and I got to know public transportation from an early. My parents tried marijuana once, they told us, though had an elaborate Turkish bong hidden in the closet. Katie and I advanced in the Berkeley Unified School district. "
From my remarks:
"My parents met the first week of the first Peace Corps, announced by JFK at the University of Michigan where Moe was a law student.
During Kennedy’s speech, which my father describes as “captivating”, Kennedy suggested he would send America’s willing young people around the world in a “united corps for peace”; afterwards pressed, JFK announced the Peace Corp and my father knew right then he would join up.
Sunday, December 23
Madeleine: "I love the smell of these comics."
Madeleine: "Isn't Bruce Banner the Hulk?"
Madeleine: "But it says here the Hulk wants to kill Bruce Banner. .."
Me: "That's the psychology of the thing."
Madeleine: "But then the Hulk turns into Bruce Banner."
Me: "Yes he does."
Madeleine: "How can he be two people at once?"
Me: "Don't you ever feel that way? Angry one moment, happy the next?"
Madeleine: "Yeah ?"
Me: "So the Hulk is Bruce Banner's alter ego. He does all the things the mild mannered scientist cannot do like express rage and throw tanks and stuff."
Madeleine: "Woa. So he can be, like, angry and yell at people whenever he wants?"
Me: "That's the idea."
Madeleine: "That is so cool."
Madeleine: "Gracie, on Christmas Day, can we open our presents in the afternoon so we have longer to look forward to them?"
Me: "Good idea. How about if we wait until 2014?"
Madeleine: "Until 2014 ?"
Me: "Just think about how excited you would be then."
Madeleine: "Yeah, right Dad."
Me: "We could combine 2013 and 2014. It would be over the top."
Madeleine: "We are not going to wait until 2014 to open our presents."
Me: "Let's see if Gracie and Moe would agree."
Grace: "Jeff we are not going to wait until 2014. Don't tease your daughter like that."
Me: "You're just lucky you have your Grandmother on your side."
Madeleine: "Whatever, Dad."
Saturday, December 22
The NRA launders the gun industry's dirty business, promoting and protecting semi-automatic weapons, while companies like A-Square and Bushmaster reap profits from their $31B market, by annual sales. The US owns over half of all firearms in the world (another stunning statistic: Since Robert Kennedy assassinated June 8, 1968, more Americans have died by firearms in the US, including suicides and accidents, then in all American wars combined).
The industry's fall back, that guns don't kill people, delusional : the US, with an estimated 270-300 million guns in circulation, the only western society with a murder pandemic. The UK, for instance, has as many wackos who play violent inter-active video games yet 1/200th the number of people murdered (adjusted for population etc).
Obama has asked Congress to put 'common sense' gun control legislation on his desk in one month.
“I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed officers in every single school in this nation.”
--Wayne LaPierre, Exec VP of the NRA, responds to Newtown
We say good-bye to Aneta then Heathrow for the long-haul to find our jumbo defective so BA finds another one, three hours later. In fact we are lucky that they have a spare - not too many 747s hanging about I imagine. The kids settle in for 10 hours of entertainment so they really aren't all too bothered by inter planetary transport. As with so many things that would astound my grandmother, it is all as normal as pie for the Shakespeares.
Wednesday, December 19
I tell the guy the dog takes dry dog food and not to spoil him.
Eitan's iPod screen shattered to bits. Eitan: "We can fix it."
Eitan sings in the Hampton choir at the St Mary's Parish Church and seeing Sonnet's happiness makes me happy, too. We work our way through the 18 page program complete with Christmas songs, readings and prayers. Madeleine insists I check my mobile 'off' and squirms at the idea of me singing; she gets the loud hiccups as the lights dim for Chorale Preludes on Nun komm der Heiden Heiland und Wachet auf ruft uns die Stime by Bach. I try not to giggle.
Eitan's last day of school at 12-noon and the boy reports his class watches movies. I have already emailed Eitan's form teacher about a ' homework break' so close to the four week Xmas holiday but this time I let it ride.
Photo from Sonnet.
Sunday, December 16
Sonnet and I to Wimbledon for a dinner party with Jim and Peri and their interesting friends : one fellow from Istanbul and an antiques trader; another organises bespoke celebrations for the richest people in the world. The woman next to me separated from her husband 17 years ago but not divorced: "he's now worth a mint in the City" she reports. Jim, for his part, continues to spend time in California with Google, where he has been seven years, joining at about my age. He tells us the average age 27. And this, the most powerful company the world has ever known.
I pin up a mistletoe.
Me: "Do you know what happens under a mistletoe?"
I grab Madeleine and cover her with kisses: "Ahh, stop it dad! Stop!"
Me: "I can't help myself. You had better make sure some cute fellow doesn't come in to our house."
Me: "Or the dog."
At Elm Grove I forget my shirt so do my post-run stretches topless. Eitan jogs over, growls: "Dad put your shirt on. Or go in the car or something."
Saturday, December 15
My Friday - Friday !- lunch cancels so I join Sonnet at a local Japanese near the museum then, afterwards, sit around writing emails and bothering her a bit. Sonnet now "upstairs" working on La Moda for the next several years and has a perfect hide-away overlooking the ancient brownstone. Since the top floor (passing through the Asiatic and silver collections to get to), Sonnet enjoys sunlight, a valuable commodity in London, esp. when dark and gloomy , like today.
Madeleine, tucked in bed with a cold, re-reads "The Hunger Games." Have we finally moved on from Harry Potter? ("No, Dad, we have not moved on from Harry Potter.") Today her last day of school so she is officially on hols until January noting, mournfully, that she starts the next term the day following our return from California. She and I carry many similarities.
I take Eitan to football practise (Sonnet reports that Eitan qualifies for a duathlon and to represent his school); the dog and I geared up for a run around Bushy Park.
Wednesday, December 12
A whirl wind trip goes from Paris to Amsterdam to Rijswijk, where I am now, blogging away. It keeps me sane. Before my afternoon meeting I jog in a familiar park - the receptionist my conspiracist who shows me the employee shower room. Travel without exercise a bad combination.
“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”
--Writer John Green
Monday, December 10
Madeleine, from under a blanket, pops up: "Dad, you know, I just thought of something. If you are blind, do you see things in your dreams ?"
Me: "That is a very good question. I don't know."
Madeleine: "I bet they would want to. See things I mean."
Me: "Yeah, I imagine they would."
Madeleine: "I hope they can."
Me: "You have a big heart, kid."
Madeleine: "This girl at school has been calling me Mad-uh-lae-an, which I hate."
Sonnet: "I can understand why."
Madeleine: "So I gave her a nick name and she totally exploded. And nearly cried."
Madeleine: "And besides my nick name is MO."
Madeleine: "Madeleine Orenstein. Mo.
Me: "Know who would appreciate that?"
Madeleine: "I have no idea."
(Madeleine and Sonnet crack up for some reason.)
Sunday, December 9
We are out until late late last night earning, even, the au pair's respect. Ramsey and Jennifer host a party at their home in Hamstead complete with 8 piece band (trumpet!) that kicks and an unusual number of middle-age models. So this is where they go - North London. The best part is sitting outside with Sonnet, under a heat lamp, drinking a cocktail and discussing various gossips and goings on. Eitan out late at a swimming gala and Madeleine watches a movie.
This morning Eitan to another football match - this time Elm Grove - and Sonnet and I take the dog for a run; she now addresses Xmas cards while Madeleine does some homework (grumpy) and I listen to Philip Glass's 'koyaanisqatsi.'
Sonnet on the pictured cheese: "It looks like an organ."
Saturday, December 8
Eitan all business before Hampton's home match against Wilson's in Surrey (this my first Hampton game btw and I am told by Eitan "to not do anything embarrassing". As if). The lads arrive in school uniform so change while the Dads chit chat about their boy's football talents - this as ever before. Hampton win 5-1.
I am happy to be home from Zurich given a foot of snow on the departing side and flights cancelled. A highlight the Zunfthaus zur Waag, a restaurant in the 'old town' where I have the Zürcher Kalbsgeschnetzeltes mit/ohne Kalbsnieren und Butterrösti which is slaced veal, "Zurich style," with calf’s kidneys and “Rösti”. My guests (a large pe investor and a limited partner in Astorg) and I discuss the usual topics : investment, tax, regulation . .. corruption, which is rare in private equity, perhaps surprising given the opaque nature of the industry. Contrast this to hedge funds, like SAC, which, in theory, are transparent, investing in public stocks, and yet rocked by insider trading.
Madeleine: "Hi, Dad."
Sonnet: "That's not a very enthusiastic way of greeting your father."
Me: "Didn't you miss me?"
Madeleine: "You were away ?"
Thursday, December 6
I am in Zurich today and tomorrow for meetings and, since my afternoon otherwise free, I take my camera for a jog by Lake Zurich. My taxi driver (who hates the mountains and the cold) tells me that the lake freezes over - a quick web search indicates this has happened 25 times since 1200, most recently in 1962.
Switzerland about the cleanest, most efficient, place in Europe or any where : I recall Geneva: The trains run to the second; the airports, highways and rail networks connect seamlessly. The swiss pride their exactness. Of course the sacrifice is the mad creative chaos that fuels many big cities : London's mixture of cultures, sub cultures, languages, food, traffic, newspapers, noise, discos, theatre and everything else is what makes it a thrilling place to be.
Wednesday, December 5
Me: "You know that I will be in Zurich tomorrow."
Eitan: "For how long?"
Me: "One night."
Eitan: "One night? What a waste of time."
Me: "What do you think I do - sit around the hotel and watch TV?"
Eitan: "I don't know .. .I guess."
Tuesday, December 4
The dog in the habit of, well, barking. Only problem is that he does so whenever let into the back-yard and, worse, the front when we go running often at 6AM. The neighbours hate us (Sonnet hates Rusty). A dog's gotta do what a dog's gotta do.
Madeleine to receive her exam marks and is unusually quiescent on the upper deck of the 337. I hold her hand part of the way (until someone she knows enters the bus); it is a quiet journey.
Sonnet and I to the Emanuel hill form drinks in Clapham. I spend thirty minutes talking to Lillian, with slight moustache, unable to make chitter-chatter. Sonnet informs me later that Lillian is deconstructing the human genome with a particular focus on understanding the DNA sequencing of lupus. Probably a good thing we did not reach this topic. She also rides a motorcycle.
Monday, December 3
Sunday, December 2
We catch a train to Waterloo station and cross the similarly named bridge - pictured. Much more fun than driving. We are again to Covent Garden this time to see the musical 'Matilda' by Roald Dahl. It is a wonderful adaptation, too, and a close mirror to the story right down to the character's appearances (in my imagination) including the perfect horrible Miss Trunchball, who is played with gruesome awesomeness by David Leanard : a highlight visual gag when Trunchball grabs an eight year-old by the pig tails and twirls her round then releases her into the audience. . . the kids howl with delight, as do we.
Afterwards we stumble upon food stalls behind The Hayward Gallery - a new thing, which offers some of the best creative new food in London. We pick up some rice balls for the ride home and Sonnet buys salamis and cheese (I think fondly of Brown's "Silver Truck" where half the Freshman class lined up for an egg and steak sandwich at 3 or 4AM, post night out, lonely to bed)