Wednesday, March 18


From the Daily Mail, by Penny Marshall: "Like a real porn star, Becky is heavily made up and lying naked on the bed as the camera flashes. She could be just another glamorous model as she poses provocatively with practised moves. But she isn't. Shockingly, Becky is just 17 and still at school. She's filming herself in a friend's bedroom in a large, detached house in leafy suburbia as her school friends party downstairs."

It is inevitable, my prurient self supposes, that I would catch the trend of "sexting" and comment on it - how not in this social digital blather? As a middle-aged parent and observer, it is titillating and threatening- and illegal. "Sexting," for those older than me, is sending provocative photos of self to others via a mobile phone. It is almost always younger girls and last year 90 children in the UK cautioned as a result of posting sexual material of themselves or their underage friends in this manner. Given the noxious combination of binge-drinking, video gaming, sexual media and advertising in the UK and US, no wonder teen-agers find sexting normal practice. So here is another generational divide I am left to ponder. When I was young (oh la la la) adolescence confusing enough without pornography - at least we had "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty In Pink" to guide us. Today, there would seem to be a clear relationship between imagery and activity: 'The age at which people have their first sexual experience has fallen dramatically. For women it dropped from 21 in 1953 to below 16 in 2006. 'Teenage pregnancies are higher in the UK than anywhere in western Europe, at 27 in 1,000 compared with only five in the Netherlands." (The Good Childhood Study). A Radio 4 investigation suggests that by age-16, and as young as eight, kids include 'sexual surfing' as part of their normal online experience. Britain offers no parental or other guidelines - though this problem now receives mainstream attention and the sexualisation of young teenage and pre-teen girls through clothes, videos, and music lyrics, and a possible link with sexual abuse and violence, is under a fact-finding review by the Home Secretary. So once again our government - or schools - sought to fix a social concern that should be firstly cared for at home. I, for one, won't let Eitan and Madeleine have a television or computer (for now) and surfing done in a public place - even if only harmless Fabregas Top 10 Goals. Are not there some obvious measures to (re)gain a control?

Image from David Cronenberg's '83 film "Videodrome"

Tuesday, March 17

More Booze

Hat from the V&A exhibition (photo from V&A publications). Government has spurned chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson's call for a minimum price of 50p per unit alcohol to cut consumption. Super Gee notes ".. as we crack down on binge and under-age drinking it’s also right that we do not want the responsible sensible majority of moderate drinkers to have to pay more or suffer as a result of the excesses of a small minority.” The minimum-charge for a 12% bottle of wine would be £3. This floor, the chief medical office models, nets a 7% decrease in booze and 10% in the binge-drinking younger set (the current bottle goes, on average, for around £4 in Britain). This nets 3,200 fewer drinks-related deaths per year and saves the UK economy some £20-30 billion in recouped wages and lost time from hang-overs. It also reduces hospital and emergency care in the tens of thousands of visits per year. Seems like a good investment to me since it also saves our center-towns from louts and drunkards who cavort, fight and vomit like a bunch of wild animals embarrassing all of us. The real pressure on Super Gee not the voters but the drinks industry and its influence over Big Politics. I do not doubt for a minute their ability to steer the debate, and indeed I listen to a spokesperson on Radio 4 discuss alternatives to a tax - like labelling and education. Fair enough, but the problem is that such measures, in place for years, don't work. There is something in this British culture about letting go - France, where the average bottle of wine is £1.70 has no similar problem .. so why the difference? Britain is a messier place and perhaps old habits die hard - unlike the Gallics who live inside tolerance Britain loves to let it rip.

St Pat

Today St. Patrick's day which celebrates Saint Patrick (AD 385–461), one of the patron saints of Ireland. It's also a good reason to get pissed especially if you live in Boston or New York. In my yuf, when I lived on 85th St., the local pub McLeer's was all things green and especially today, 17 March. Located on 80th and Amsterdam, it was an Upper West Side destination which often kicking off a bar crawl ending at the Raccoon Lodge or some other seedy all-you-can-drink joint. Unlike the others, McA's was reasonably legitimate outside of the weekend - a blue collar hangout with the down and out crowd it sponsored - ugly bar, basic family tables, ancient television set showing sports, open until who-knows-when. In short, the perfect place for one's 20s with your male friends on the cheap. Chics might be there too but not for the ambiance, that's for sure. I think I celebrated my last night at First Boston here. So back to St Pat's: the Queen Mum used to fly bowls of shamrocks from Ireland to members of the Irish Guards made up of, well, the Irish; in 2002, London mayor Ken Livingstone organised an annual Saint Patrick's Day parade which takes place on weekends around the 17th usually in Trafalgar Square, though we shan't be going thank you very much. In 2008 the water in the Trafalgar Square fountains was dyed green. The world's first St. Patrick's Day parade was held in Boston in 1761, organized by the Charitable Society while today's largest in Dublin attracts over 500,000 people. And there you have it.

Me to Madeleine, who compares everything to her brother: "You know, it all evens out over the long run."
Madeleine: "What about those shin pads? Eitan got them last year and I never got a pair."

"May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you."
Old Irish blessing

"The Irish ignore anything they can't drink or punch"
Irish proverb

Monday, March 16

Ze Prince

The boys in action. Spring has arrived in London as temperatures in the balmy low-60s. Strangely, the Royal Family has been out of the news since the New Year - I mean, no Wills and Kate Middleton action nor Harry cock-ups (other than calling the Pakis... well, Pakis). This week sees Prince Charles and the duches touring South America complete with sambo dancers in Rio De Janeiro. Now that is an awkward moment - Charles surrounded by voluptuous Latinos dying to mug with him - could anything prove more demasculating? It is not like Charles tries .. he is simply sooo formal that even the suggestion of titties throws him off his game. To his credit, Charles does a considerable amount of charitable and honourable work - he exports an image of Britain lost long ago: smugly confident in its world view, wealthy though not dashing. White. And while the Buckingham mansion no longer messy nor interesting without Diana and her foibles (who can forget James Gilby recorded telephone conversation: "Ohhh Diana were I tampon .. .") it is somehow reassuring. The country may have 2,000,000 unemployed, a yuf drinks culture and knife problem but we also have the Queen - always somehow practical and pragmatic, a bit dour and with definite taste - us subjects know that we are in good hands. Oy.

“Never underestimate the capacity of angry populism in times of economic stress."
Robert Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley

The Squad

Eitan plays his first "friendly" representing his new club Kew Park Rangers against the Kew Association. There is a bit of heat in the match as KA is a spin-out from the larger KPR and left the club so the younger lads could play competitive matches from age seven; KPR follows the England FA guidance of over-eights so Eitan won't have the real competition until he turns nine in September. The main contention, of course, is the players KA took - generally the best, most eager boys (whose parents) want outcomes early. And play they do - KA has had over 20 matches this season so far and their game generally well oiled. The last time the two groups together, before Eitan, KPR suffered outcomes of 9-nil and so forth... KA has one player, Jack, contracted with Chelsea for his later years - the kid is eight years old. He's also butter on the pitch. So it was exciting to watch the close action and though Eitan's squad loses both matches 3-2 and 3-2, they play admirably and are always in the game. Eitan reminds me of Kelly in the Bad News Bears - he raises the level of play. He also neutralises - and outplays - Jack which has the sideline tongues wagging. The coach, pictured right, who loves his boys and a serious sort comes over to me afterwards all smiles: "Aye-tan was brilliant" he says in an English brogue. The boy and I lounge around the rest of yesterday in front of more football on TV while Sonnet takes Madeleine to the British Museum and dim sum in Chinatown.

The boy in yellow BTW is the goal-keeper or generally the worst job on the field. He's pretty damn good at it though.

Friday, March 13

The Future Is Here

Photo of an electric-car charger on Berkeley Square, which is the most expensive commercial real-estate in London and home to Blackstone, HarbourVest and other private equity and hedge funds (pssst: rates are coming down).

Owning an electric avoids London's £8 congestion charge and carbon-emission tarrif which can surpass £500 per year depending on car-class. Is this enough to get rid of the Range Rovers, unaffectionately known as "Chelsea tractors" used to shuffle kids back and forth from primary school or road-hogs yapping on their mobile whilst driving? Probably not, but a start anyway. Former Mayor Ken Livingston wanted to charge £25 per day for high-emission cars like the SUV but Boris has shied away from something so politically unpopular. Oh well, I'm left to curse under my breath (full disclosure: on holiday I get the biggest damn car I can drive in America and love it).

I have breakfast with Brad who visits London from Chapel Hill to talk to oil and gas guys and investors in his gas-renewables project. Brad is partnered with all kinds of heavy weights like Siemens and ExonMobil and if anybody can make a buck while energy prices down, it is him. And I expect him to retire when rates up, as is inevitable. Brad and I met early last year while he and his family in London and he running $billions for Babson Capital (Mass. Mutual); we enjoy each other's company - Brad rather formal and a converted Republican - and his sense of humour allows us to joke around the edges and appreciate each others views. He's also a maths genius and a John Motley Morehead Scholar at Univ. of North Carolina where he got his BA and JD. I now envy his suburban lifestyle complete with barbecue grill and UNC basketball games. Since the Tar Heels ranked #1 I am told in good faith that getting tickets requires $25,000 donation minimum to the athletics department. This season sounds like a bargain. Says Brad: "reality is the yellow line in the middle of the road" which I think applies to many a thing.

Here's another nice reason to love W. Bush: The Federal Reserve reports today that U.S. households lost $5.1 trillion in the final three months of 2008. What American family would ever have voted for the Iraq war knowing the disastrous return on our investment in this silly, ill-planned and unnecessary war? Sure, I buy that the 50 leverage cycle unravelling but recall, Dear Sir, that 50% of the run-up occurred from 2004 squarely under Bush's watch - a president, BTW, who promoted asset ownership, primarily property, whilst the market flooded with cash thanks to Greenspan's low interest rates and failure to understand anything at all about the economy. And who could forget el President's "this sucker could go down" on September 28, 2008? At least Super Gee has not hit the panic button and seems to understand Britain and the world's troubles. As does Obama I feel, though I am sometimes worried that he is giving attention to plans outside the critical-path of banking and liquidity - afterall, if we don't get the economy's heart pumping you can say goodbye to education, welfare and all that.

Thursday, March 12


Marc and I reunion after four years on the Bankside - behind us, across the river, an old friend - wherever you are, there is the Wren. Marc and I formed a poker club back in '99 with a number of new media luminaries who have made a fortune or started over. Many of them now gone from London, including Marc who lives in Texas and invests for a family office. He is a pretty good poker player and probably has some of my money yet. So here is the latest sign the world is going to hell: the wonderfully named "lollypop ladies," who stand curbside and ensure our children cross the streets safely, are being armed with cameras secretly placed in their signage to capture aggressive motorists (at a cost to the counsel of £1,000 a pop). These mostly elderly volunteer gentle women and men are a treasure which I recall from my earliest memories. To think that British drivers go out of their way to ignore them or worse, threaten their safety and the children is outrageous. Unfortunately I don't have the facts to suggest whether this an over-reaction somehow similar to cameras everywhere in London but the local councils taking louts seriously, and to this I cannot argue. Another sign the end is nigh: Michael Jackson booked solid for 25 nights at the O2 Centre with tickets going for £1000s. Actually I wouldn't mind seeing Jacko myself . .. .

Millennium Bridge

Here, the breathing city, around 10AM - image from the Southbank facing East towards the city (Tower 42 and the Gherkin mark the financial district). Note the cranes - this the end of an era as nothing new going up - in fact, the London Shard, which was to be Europe's tallest building located at the Tower Bridge, is now off. The Millennium bridge, pictured, connects St Paul's Cathedral, The Globe and the Bankside Power Station (now the Tate Modern) - I love the idea that the Pre-Norman, Shakespeare and Britain's industrial age brought together by a modern footpath over the river that gives this place life. Londoners BTW nicknamed the bridge the "Wobbly Bridge"after unexpected swaying caused its closing after two days - after some embarrassment and some further modifications the "wobble" was eliminated entirely - the designers had not modelled foot-traffic stepping ensemble which is what happens on on the sway. Go figure.

This morning the family breaks into spontaneous disco-dancing when I play the Scissor Sisters - Sonnet leads interpretations of "the chicken," "the swim," "the lawn-mower" and "the dog" which sees her raising her leg to the beat. The kids crack up and we know Sonnet has it in her to not be serious all of the time.

We have a discussion as to why I might wear a heart-rate monitor:
Eitan: "To see what time it is?"
Madeleine: "to see where you are?"
Eitan: "to weigh your heart?"
Madeleine: "to see how fat you are?"
Eitan: "to see how fast your heart is going?" (finally!)
Madeleine adds helpfully: "To see that you are dying?"

Sonnet leaves early and I find Madeleine under her bed: "what's up?" I ask? She: "Nothing, Dad, I'm just missing mum."

Tuesday, March 10


Alison posts this wonderful photograph of us in our prime - Berkeley High School our Senior Year or "Kicking it live and busting out of the hive in '85" (our school mascot the yellow jacket). I could name most of the people but for now glaze over the individuals to revel in our youth. Picture on the steps leading to the school auditorium where we gathered for lunch between class every day from Sophomore to Senior year (ninth grade at West Campus, a weird Berkeley-only public school experiment in a bad part of town). And yes, that is me on the left in flooding jeans. Très cool then, I should think.

My day off to an interesting start - running late I arrive at The Wolseley to find that I have two dates converging at the same time unexpectedly. Since my name on the reso, everybody perplexed before I arrive. It was all a bit awkward which I handled appropriately by sweating inappropriately. Afterwards I see the dismissed party taking them flowers - a nice welcoming since they are French and have started a new investment business in Mayfair. Probably they are not otherwise receiving bouquets, to my credit. My evening ends at yoga and now the couch where I watch a UEAFA Cup qualifier which Eitan begs his way into - past his bedtime. Liverpool trouncing Real Madrid 3-nil when I send Eitan off to bed grumbling. Meanwhile, I tell a restless Madeleine that her teacher has threatened to tie her up in chains and hang her from the classroom ceiling. Says Madeleine with some worry: "do you swear, dad- do you?" The game is up when Sonnet rolls her eyes (as ever) and Madeleine informs me she knew I was lying because my ears red. This leads into a lengthy series of lies, no-lies with questions like: 'you snore in your sleep' or 'your mother screamed bloody murder when you were born.' Just any old night of the week this could be.

Monday, March 9

Limp Dick

If this graph was not so horrifying it would be funny - straight from a New Yorker cartoon. I am having a rousing conversation with at least one of my conservative friends who already accuses: "he (Obama) has so far been a disaster for the economy, with ambition to wreck far more than just the financial sector." If only six weeks, what will we be after four years? Many of us liberals are also becoming concerned about the deficit spending but I agree with the President's broader agenda: correcting the extreme wealth imbalance that has occurred since Reagan and accelerated during Bush thanks in large part to the Bush tax cuts. Besides, what other option is there other then borrow and spend? Our backs against the wall. Most economists agree too including Nobel price winners Stiglitz and Krugman. The disingenousness of the Republican party strikes home repeatedly - they carp about the deficits yet wasted 2% GDP on Iraq which has produced no ROI; their spending on top of the war ran our deficit to trillions; Republicans voted without exception against the stimulus package and blow-hard Rush Limbaugh demands the Presidents failure, which is really the failure of America. So I ask: what do you call a Republican standing in the bread line? A Democrat.

Paul And Flippers

We spend the day with Paul and Camilla kicking around Richmond and catching up. 

Paul, I am happy to say, gives a nod to The Kooks which we saw together last year. We also saw the Arctic Monkeys for my 40th but I think he enjoyed them less. So this morning I head for the Hampton Pool by Bushy Park after dropping off the kids at school (Madeleine and I have a rousing game of tag until I slip on the concrete and bruise my knee. Game over). 

Hampton Pool is, unusually, outdoors and 36 meters - I mean, WTF? I'm not complaining as it is also one of the few neighborhood pools to allow flippers so I can really haul ass. In fact, using fins has changed my stroke which is now longer with greater stretching and "bounce" to catch water - these changes have stuck without the rubber kicks. My problem usually is the other lap-swimmers who I have to navigate to everybody's irritation. Today while doing a flip-turn I clocked a fellow in the head - I gave my utmost apologies but really it was his fault for hogging the lane. Yes, I admit, part of me wants to scream at some of these people. Kind of like road-rage, I think, so not particularly healthy. 

After I complete my marathoning year I anticipate joining a Masters club which should ease up on the lap-swimmers. Watching Eitan inspires me and in many ways, I think I am a better freestyler today than yester-year when logging ten-miles a day. I also enjoy it a lot more too - any surprise since it is no longer a chore? Middle age has its benefits indeed.

Richmond Hill

Here is another posed image - poor kids - at the outer edge of London on Richmond Hill. This a favorite spot near the Richmond Hill entrance of Richmond Park overlooking the Thames facing west. Behind the kids is Surrey. The week end whizzes by with swimming, football and more football - this time, it is Manchester United vs. local Fulham at Old Trafford. Eitan and Joe Y-H watch the 4-nil trouncing at Joe's house; Joe then comes over for an over-night, goes home at 10PM then returns for breakfast. It is all good and Joe a great pal which reminds me of Jeff Morgan from my same age - what could have happened to him? His brother Louis had cancer so Jeff and I often found ourselves together after school. But back to now: before Joe's departure, the kids decide to sleep downstairs on the floor with Madeleine on the couch. Not missing the action, she. They gorge themselves on ice cream and television and why shouldn't they? Friendship something to celebrate.

Eitan sits next to me and perched before his notebook providing me and Madeleine factoids about a horse, which he studies in school. Did you know that a horse can live 25 years? Charlie lived until 29 so he had an extra long life, Madeleine notes with teary eyes. The number of teeth a horse has equal to its years. Old Billy, the oldest recorded horse lived to 62, though I cannot imagine he had room in his mouth for 62. A horse spends more energy lying down than standing up A horse's head weighs 11,84 pds on average; its heart- 10. I am commanded to bring home horse pictures for the assignment: "make them funny, dad, OK?

Friday, March 6


My photo facing north from the Southbank - Hungerford Bridge, built in 1845 by the famous Brunel, transports the South Eastern Railway with its terminus just beyond the river, unpictured, at the Strand's Charing Cross next to Trafalgar Square. Next to the rail is one of two Golden Jubulee Bridges constructed in 2000 for foot traffic and whose entire structure held in place by exploiting the tensions between the pylons and the various stay rods and struts. Cool (I took a picture from here once for a perspective). The half-dome is 1 Embankment and the London HQ of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Boy have I spent some dull hours there. To the left is the beginning of Whitehall or the centre of HM Government administration. My picture at today's high-tide or around 11AM (just another day of goofing off I suppose). And since you asked: the Thames has 70,000-million gallons of water flowing in it. It also used to be connected to Germany's Rhine river but this for another time.

Eitan gets two-pounds for cleaning the living room only to watch his work tussled by Madeleine: "what's the point if you are going to mess things up!" he shouts. I point out that this presents opportunity for cash-flow and his mind does the math: he saves for a pair Nike Steam2 FG football boots at £55 for the entry pair up to £190, which of course the boy wants. This = lots of cleaning.

Richmond Gala

Eitan dashes to victory yesterday at the Richmond Borough Swimming Gala - the boy closest to us in the green-cap. The gala includes 45 schools and over 800 competitors and the largest borough championships in Britain we are told. The finals will be in two weeks. Three months ago when trials announced at school, Eitan all over it - no pushing or prodding from dad trying to relive lost glory. Wednesday night Eitan all butterflies - hard sleep - and looks serious and rather nervous leading up to his race. I watch from the gallery. On deck are various organised teams in school-colours screaming at a deafening pitch. The pool is a fairly new 33 meters but this is England so indoors with little space and, well, wet. It ain't Mission Viejo. Only 250 parents allowed inside to cheer and lucky me I received a Golden Ticket. Security is well-organised which gives comfort that England serious about child safety - I must give my details, ID and wear a badge for my above photo. Small price to pay. After the splash-and-dash Eitan is relieved and his coach Ms. X, who was also his Year-Two teacher, gives him a thumbs up and a well-deserved pat on the cap. He glows. Of course I am proud of Eitan and equally happy to see the camaraderie on the traveling team. Oh, and meanwhile because of texting it gets around quickly that Eitan wins his race and soon a mum tells me she heard Eitan "swimming every morning at the crack of dawn." Ah, yes - his legend secure in primary.

Thursday, March 5


Americans, I learn, drink 2.5 gallons of alcohol a year in whatever form: beer, wine, spirit etc. This has been true the last decades regardless of the economy - answering a question I often ask at the booze shop: do sales increase or decline in a recession? My local informs me, for instance, that wine sales are up as fewer people at restaurants staying at home and presumably in front of the flat-screen TV - drink to hand, of course. Balancing this trend, consumers purchasing fewer expensive spirits and wine - the most popular bottles I'm told are £5-6 versus twelve months ago when it was £10-15 (this an entirely unscientific survey BTW with sample of ... one). Intuitively this makes sense when considering the end-result, er, getting drunk, the same - who cares how we get there? Scotland recently got its pants in a twist when it announced a minimum charge per shot, which would be the first of its kind in Europe and ahead of the curve similar to the smoking-ban in California from '96. Not surprisingly, the drinks industry aghast and shout: illegal! which, in fact, it is according to European law. Still the aim is true: get young people off the hooch. Britain, sadly, leads Europe for teen-age binge drinking and the fastest growing category is female teen binge drinking. Not surprisingly, teen pregnancies saw an increase in the last year for the first time since 2002 whilst Labour promised to half the number over this period. Hmmm I wonder if there is a correlation? So back to our initial question: do people drink more or less during hard times? All evidence would suggest lower cost but greater volume. I shudder to think seven or eight years from now.

Photo from Absolut. Does anybody else find their never-ending campaign moronic?


Photograph, uncredited, of girl and submarine on one of the many small islands in the Bay of Finland neighboring Helsinki where I am Monday night. I have been fortunate to know this city on five or six occasions these last four years and every time I visit I am taken by its charms. There remains a strong Russian or Soviet influence in the architecture and the buildings box-like and strong with differing drab colours in the city center where I stay at The Kamp. The bay is completely frozen and the two towering pleasure ships must be tugged to port behind ice-crushers. Otherwise the docks, which bustle in the spring and summer, deserted. Overlooking everything is the glorious, Finnish Russian Orthodox Church with its roots in the medieval Novgorodian missionary work.

Reuters reports that one in five US mortgages underwater with the sun-states off by 50% in over-built areas. In the UK housing prices down but no where near reflective of the correction taking place in public or private markets. I see this in private equity where funds, by design, meant to suffer recessions by investing and reap rewards during good times - this why they are ten-year vehicles. Inside the portfolios, however, one can see the growing destruction wrought by leverage which may wipe out a class of vintage years. Today now there is grumbling about bank covenants being breached and in some cases like Candover Partners, one of the UK's largest buy-out funds, the closure of business - Candover bailing out of its recent €5 billion fifth fund. Even the secondary market is dead - when you don't know the bottom, you don't buy the assets. All this may suggest that we have pain to suffer, which has not yet passed along to the single-biggest household asset - property. While the decline is ongoing and bloody in the US, London still feels rather content with the run-ups since '95 and unwilling to depart with its "fair value." As the recession bites deeper, this will change I fear and once gone - confidence with it.

Madeleine and I play a game of tag-your-it on the playground before school. Eitan has trials for the Richmond Borough Swimming Gala this afternoon, which I will watch from the stands. 45 schools compete and Eitan has been selected, after a school competition, to represent us.

Wednesday, March 4


Here I am Sunday or any old day in Richmond Park. My cow suit meant for the London Marathon which I will run 26 April for charity. Hence the outfit. We pull into the car-park and, rather unfortunately for everybody really, it is well crowded. The kids, being kids, accept the weirdness in stride - another example of dad being dad. (How can I forget my freshman year at Brown when my mother greeted me for parent's week end in a Gorilla mask+ape gloves?) Indeed I do recognise the occasional raised eyebrow or even smirk. I ask Sonnet to take a few quick photographs and we are out of there quickly. A potentially explosive moment occurs as we depart and I am cut-off unnecessarily by a careless driver in a Range Rover - a car I detest on principal. For a brief moment there is a flare up then I remind myself: I... am . ... dressed.. . . as... a.. . . .. cow . . . .

Here is Marcus on facebook, which I am trying to figure out yet and he gets about right I think:

Well, it's been good for getting in touch with old friends, but it's a stupid way to keep up communications. Vacuous would about cover it. It's designed exactly for teens and twenties, and does its job well – which is to make the mundane seem important. Seems that's about what that age group is looking for.

Sunday, March 1

Week End

Madeleine does her homework. Sort of. Otherwise the day is cold and grey as it has been every day since, like, forever. This the capital's famous climate which does remind one of our proximity to the Atlantic which can otherwise easily be overlooked. Manhattan, for instance, an island but who actually sees the water? While Eitan footballs, I run along the Thames doing a loop from Kew Bridge to Barnes Bridge, northside then southside. There is a well-used trail for runners and part of the Thames Path which opened in 1996 and follows the river from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton. It is about 184 miles long. My circle passes several boat houses and today's rowers out in force - I see at least twenty-five boats from single-hull to sevens - a real traffic jam. The Oxford-Cambridge race soon and completes in nearby Mortlake so maybe this why the buzz. Sonnet makes a brisket and I'm off to Finland tomorrow.

Eitan loses his Match Attack bid by 20p - I can just see the other dad hunched over his notebook son at his side going ... "yes!"

Eitan teases Madeleine for not knowing the players on Manchester United, her stated preferred team. With Eitan out of earshot, I inform Madeleine that ManU's greatest player is Stankowitz - after making me swear several times to its veracity, Madeleine rushes up to Eitan to describe "the Great Jew From The North." This gets a laugh from everybody including Sonnet who (again) rolls her eyes.