Saturday, August 31
Thursday, August 29
Madeleine and I meet on the High Street for lunch. Afterwards, it's the hairdresser so she can try on a new style just in time for school, which kicks off tomorrow. I am honored that she wants me beside her as the 'stylist' clips away, snip, snip, snip.
And soon - just like that - it's back to work. Next week looming large. Where did the time go ?
Wednesday, August 28
The Cologne Cathedral is Germany's most visited landmark attracting 20,000 people a day, according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany. The towers are approximately 515 ft or the height of The Stealth at Thorpe Park. A lot is going on here.
Monday, August 26
Me: "Are you proud to be British?"
Eitan: "Yeah, of course."
Me: "How come?"
Eitan: "Well, it's a small country yet it contributes a lot to the world. It punches above its weight."
Me: "So does that suggest that you have contributed to the world?"
Eitan, after some thought: "No. Not really."
The bank holiday comes to a close which is a good thing since all I do is nag the kids and house chores. Sonnet at the museum all weekend to finish the introduction of her book, 'The Glamour of Italian Fashion.'
Madeleine records a season of 'Modern Family' and I am sucked in. The current show has the kids doing an egg drop project for school and Claire slips on the egg yolk and falls on her ass then starts screaming at her kid. Across the generation gap, Eitan, Madeleine and I howl with laughter.
Madeleine: "People think animals are lesser than humans."
Me: "Well, they are, aren't they?"
Madeleine: "No they are not. Horseshoe crabs can save people's lives."
Madeleine: "They have a certain medicine or something in them."
Madeleine: "I learned that in my geography class."
We sit in the living room watching TV.
Eitan: "In half an hour I am going to ask everybody to get out of here." [Dad's note: Manchester United vs. Chelsea]
Me: "I get it. 30 minutes. Don't argue this one, kid."
Sunday, August 25
Over dinner we discuss the difference between dating in the US and Britain. In the US, a 'date' remains as carefree as it was back when : boy+girl+dinner=no commitment. In the UK, Nathan tells us and Eitan corroborates, a 'date' far more serious and implies coupledom. To get around this, kids go out in packs, evenly split between the sexes, and can be found on the High Street or in Pizza Express.
Me: "So I understand Eitan is on a 'date.' "
Madeleine: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "How does that make you feel?"
Madeleine: "I don't know, nothing really."
Me: "I remember it was kind of weird, when Katie or I had dates. It was like things were changing."
Madeleine: "I guess so."
Me: "Does it seem that way to you now?"
Madeleine: "No, not really."
Me: "It's coming."
Madeleine: "If you say so, Dad."
Me: "What do teenagers do when they go out in packs?"
Madeleine: "They sing. They make fools of themselves. They buy lots of things."
Me: "They sing?"
Madeleine: "I know from personal experience."
Friday, August 23
Madeleine: "What would happen if you put a match in some beer?"
Me: "A match in some beer?"
Madeleine: "Yeah. What would happen ?"
Me: "It would go out?"
Madeleine: "I thought so."
Madeleine: "It's not like some alcohol, or something, that would explode, is it?"
Me: "I think we're safe."
Eitan: "Do you think London is a cool city?"
Me: "You bet, especially East Sheen."
Eitan: "What do you think are the coolest cities?"
Me: "I don't know. LA, Berlin. .. "
Eitan: "And New York."
Me: "You've only been to like five cities."
Me: "La Veta. . Berkeley .. . Santa Fe."
Me: "Bear Valley. Now we are talking cool."
Eitan: "You're joking, aren't you Dad?"
And we try to give him his space. It is not easy when I would otherwise wish him doing maths review. We've had some battles about this stuff and I have to be comfortable with his ability to deliver the goods on his own.
Thursday, August 22
Daniel went to Caltech and Stanford's Computer Systems Lab for post doc work and I can see why : soft natured and cerebral, funky coloured glasses and long stringy hair perfect for his runner's frame which sees four or five marathons a year (he, in his 50s). Daniel also a software writer and applied mathematician who works his trade at Sony Pictures FX - he created the code behind the wonderful scene in "Batman, The Dark Knight Rises" where the football field collapses into a sinkhole. And, in GI Joe, the Eiffel Tower's destruction ("That one was pretty cool", he giggles). I ask: who owns his work ? and he thinks for a minute : "I guess I do. Know anybody who wants it?" I am stumped, dear reader.
Monday, August 19
Thanks to the UK's 'Help To Buy' scheme introduced in 2012 and aimed at first-rung home ownership, a 5% deposit secures an additional 20% equity loan to be used towards the bank mortgage (ie, 25% down). The loan is interest free for the first five years.
Given British property values, unlike the US, did not collapse post the 2000-07 housing bubble, Britain remains over-priced by most measures like mortgage-to-income or mortgage-to-rent. Our elected leaders learn nothing.
Sunday, August 18
Madeleine: "How do you use mouthwash ?"
Me: "How do I use mouthwash?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, use it. What do you do."
Me: "I gargle it. For thirty seconds."
Madeleine: "See, Eitan, thirty seconds."
Eitan: "I don't gargle for thirty seconds because I do it after I brush my teeth."
Madeleine: "It's not how you are supposed to do it."
Me: "Are you guys having fun?"
Eitan: "Yeah, I guess so."
Me: "Well you are driving me and your mother crazy."
Madeleine: "Eitan your fish is dead!"
Eitan: "Oh, darn it."
Me: "Is it floating?"
Madeleine: "No, he sunk to the ground."
Sonnet: "Well get a little scooper and take him downstairs then."
Eitan: "Mom it's dead."
Me: "Just flush it down the toilet. And go to bed."
Madeleine: "Nice one, dad."
Friday, August 16
Well economics, US: one well (aprox 1 hectare of space) costs $6M to dig and frack, give or take, producing $40M of economic benefit (give or take) of which 20% goes to the landowner as 'royalty.' This is a cool a couple hundred grand to the landowner a year and easily more.
Madeleine: "What do people do on their honeymoon anyway?"
Me: "Make l'amour."
Me: "What do you think they do?"
Madeleine: "Have a nice vacation."
Me, to middle-age woman as we watch our kids on some vomit-inducing ride: "It takes a certain age to enjoy these things."
Woman, after a thoughtful pause: "At least, a certain attitude."
Standing in line for "The Saw" ride.
Me: "You know, all I have to do is say 'pants' and any 12 year old is mortified."
We leave Thorpe Park around 6:30PM, sun setting, day accomplished.
Thorpe Park also owns some of the fastest, tallest and scariest rides in the world. I find my heart racing as we line up for The Colossus, my first roller coaster since Cedar Point in '05 and second in 35 years (Eitan, happily: "Dad you are actually sweating!"). The adrenaline makes me nauseous yet I force myself onto "Stealth" which goes from 0 to 80 mph in 1.8 seconds before hurtling skyward, 460 feet.
I am a fraction from bailing but the joy on Eitan's face (and my potential humiliation) find me strapped into the goddamn thing, full speed ahead. Afterwards (11 seconds) I feel exhilaration - I did it! - and suddenly I am 12 all over again.
Tuesday, August 13
In 1997-98, I ran along the embankment as part of a 6-mile loop beginning in The City, past here, and it was all pretty dodgy : the Southbank Centre an unloved 1960s concrete monstrosity with rumour that Tony Blaire would demolish the complex and start all over. Happily he never did and today the area vibes with bars, restaurants, locals, tourists, readers, hipsters, joggers and freakos who seek out the river and the arts.
Madeleine and I spot a suitcase on the Thames' shore.
Madeleine: "I wonder if there are a lot of chopped up bodies in there?"
Madeleine and I have a discussion about cows.
Madeleine, matter of factly: "I've eaten leather, you know."
Madeleine: "It tastes just like a beef burger. Literally"
Monday, August 12
To stay awake, Madeleine and I catch the train to Waterloo to walk about Southbank and have lunch (sushi, of course). We end up at OXO tower for a drink and to observe the view.
Madeleine: "What would happen if you ate upside down?"
Me: "I don't know. It might not be very comfortable though."
Madeleine: "Would you throw up or something?"
Me: "Sounds like one for the Internet."
Madeleine: "This is so much fun. We should spend more time together like this."
Me: "Madeleine it is my favourite thing. There is nothing else I would rather do."
Madeleine: "I haven't gone over to the dark side yet."
Madeleine: "Eitan's music playing is so annoying." [Dad's note: Eitan has an electric keyboard]
Me: "Can you hear him in your room?"
Madeleine: "Yes. Do you know what I am going to do?"
Me: "No, what?"
Madeleine: "I'm going to cover my walls with egg cartons. That way I won't hear a thing."
Me: "Good idea."
Sunday, August 11
We stroll by the strange Eel Pie Island, an island in the Thames, which I have often wondered about. There is one private access for the 120 or so inhabitants; it was a communal hippie dippie in the '60s and known, then, as a major jazz and blues venue: visitor performers included David Bowie, The Yardbirds .. .The Who and the Rolling Stones. Even Pink Floyd.
Saturday, August 10
On the top of a tall hill we stop at a church graveyard with stones dating to the 18th century. Sonnet thinks a lovely place to be married; me, it looks like the perfect setting for "Night Of The Living Dead" or some other such horror movie. I see zombies crawling from their graves seeking human flesh. Would not come here after nightfall. Strangely, our footpath the only way here - in and out.
Friday, August 9
A poem posted nearby Smith College as part of Northampton's "June is Poetry Month" Celebration:
Prayer to Artichoke
by Gail Thomas
Strange one, I bless
the day I found you spread
open, plucked and pulled
between my teeth. Lead
me to your tangy core.
Oh, keep me
Me: "Are you two getting along?"
Madeleine, Eitan: "No. Maybe."
Madeleine: "Eitan came in to my room to steal my stuff."
Eitan: "You said I could have those things . .. "
Madeleine: "Did not. And besides, it was while I was sleeping."
Me: "Good to see you kids enjoying yourself."
Me: "No doubt about it."
Sunday, August 4
Following a quick review of the Internets to find a window cleaner better than Windex (because, you know, Windex is kind of boring), I create a concoction: 2 gallons of hot water, half-cup of ammonia, handful of dishwasher detergent, and Rain-X which otherwise keeps the car windows de fogged. The reagents act favourably, actually bubbling and popping. I try not to breathe it.
From there, it is up the 32 foot ladder to catch the 2nd story fenestras and the conservatory, that requires, well, walking on the conservatory which always freaks Sonnet out and takes me back to the stupid things I did in college.
I live yet, following a half-days work, my cleaning mixture leaves dots and streaks and I have to re do it using Windex and newspaper.
Since cooking out of the question, I am unintentionally on a weird macro diet: yogurt and berries for breakfast. Maybe something for lunch. And dinner a large green salad that doesn't require the burner. Breakfast of champions.