Sunday, March 27

Stella Lucy

Stella and Lucy
We reunion at the VA with Lucy (right) and Stella and Lucy's mother, who are visiting London. Lucy a DJ who gigs across the US. No doubt she is amazing. Stella, meanwhile, is a 'reader' and explains, in the Raphael Cartoon gallery, the ancient Trojan wars, which she is studying in school. She is 10.

I know the family from my dear bigger than life friend Steve, who was a formidable sprint freestyler. We spent hours in a pool together. Their wedding, in Dallas, Texas, the largest I have been to : ceremony at the depression era state house, reception at the MOMA. 700+ people. Dixie Chicks.

I happen to have a pair of goggles in my bag I give to Stella to give to Steve.

Madeleine: "Emma [Will's mum] asked if you were the Gordon Ramsey type." [Dad's note: Dad makes dinner].
Me: "And?"
Madeleine: "You're not really Gordon Ramsey."
Me: "Come on, I can make a good salad." [Dad's note: Dad makes a salad]
Eitan: "Like the time you used a garbage bag?" [Dad's note: Dad made Roger's Houston taco salad which requires mixing ingredients in a garbage bag]
Me: "You remember that one, don't you."
Madeleine, Eitan: "Yes."
Me: "But it was pretty good."
Madeleine: "Eitan didn't want to eat it."
Madeleine: "Garbage bag Dad."

Sunny Days

Self portrait XXXXVIII

Spring is here and I have my groove back. Without Sonnet it could not have happened.

Sonnet offered a six figure job in the US, which we decide against, notifying the kids once a fait accompli. This was several months ago. Madeleine all for it - she is disappointed, in fact, not to be going to an American high school. Eitan realises he dodged a bullet. As ever, the boy must understand change before actioning it.

We attend the Director's Circle dinner at the VA with the good and the great. Or at the least the very rich who donate their support to the museum. It is an elegant affair with a formal table stretching 30 meters inside the somber statue gallery facing the John Madejski garden in the centre of the museum. John gave the VA £2m in 2005 to create the sanctuary. I sit across from him discussing the VA's FuturePlan, his daughter to my right.

Sonnet in Moscow for the weekend and meets the cultural minister for the City of Moscow and the Director of the Gulag Museum. She gives a presentation to the State Museum.

Leg Of Lamb

Rusty wants in on the action. Poor guy.

Since its pouring rain I stair out at the backyard and drink coffee. Sure I have work to do but somehow I feel like a break has been earned. Astorg will close around €1.7bn next week so what could be more urgent?

Me: "You have so much ahead of you, you don't even realise it."
Me: "You don't know anything about love. Or having your heart broken, do you?"
Madeleine: "Nope."
Me: "Well, it's coming kid."
Madeleine: "Gee, thanks Dad."

Collar Bone Break

Madeleine takes a codeine
So it is a Bank Holiday Weekend which can only mean one thing: Rain and cold. And so it is.

The drama begins Wednesday afternoon (school out, spring break) when Madeleine trips on a football and down she goes, snapping her collar bone on the fall. The ambulance arrives in three minutes (God bless the NHS) and Madeleine to the A&E for the second time in a month (prior, an asthma attack). Sonnet arrives as they wheel our hero into the hospital, accompanied by pal Aiden and six or so worried friends.

The collar bone one of those awkward breaks since impossible to cast. It also hurts like a mother f***er. I broke mine on the Washington Elementary schoolyard playing dodge-ball in the 3rd grade.  I remember it like yesterday.

Madeleine grits it out with determination and codeine. She's been in bed the last three days, watching repeats of Modern Family. I've encouraged our brainiac to read and she is now into David Nicholls' "One Day." We have been listening to podcast "Serial" together.

I tell her it is a date: Me and her. I could not ask for anything more on Easter weekend. Madeleine might think different here.

Saturday, March 12

Break Out

Lemme outta here !
The dog left for 2 hours at the dog groomer. He's not happy about it, either.

At masters swimming this morning I meet a guy about my age who turns out to be from Acalanes, where he went to HS. Acalanes shared a water polo rivalry with Berkeley High School and, while I wasn't a water polo player, we connect many friends including Steve, Adam and others.  Patrick played for the Cal with Matt Biondi in 1986, the year the Bears won the NCAA title.  Now we're swimming laps together at St Paul's in Barnes.

Richmond Morning

I take the loyal pooch for a walk in Richmond Pk and am greeted by morning fog and unexpected beauty. The miracle of it all. The dog don't care: a few squirrel chases, a long piss, and a roll in the deer scented tall grass. Rusty keeps it real.

Eitan up and out - football match v. Kings College Wimbledon - followed by Madeleine (theatre workshop). Sonnet back last night from a conference in Edinburgh and I return from Paris. Well, it is not what I would have imagined but at least we are together most evenings for dinner. Sometimes.

Me: "Madeleine we have to talk about sugar" [Dad's note: I find a half-empty bag of gums in the kitchen].
Madeleine: "I know Dad. Do we have to talk about it again?"
Me: "You are what you eat. Sugar changes your body. Believe it." 
I absent mindedly eat the candy in front of Madeleine. Madeleine:
Me: "Starting tomorrow."

V&A - Directors Circle

Cast Court
We have our quarterly meeting of the V&A's Directors Circle, led by Nicholas Coleridge who became the museum's Chair in November 2015 (when not moonlighting at the V&A, Nic is the President of Conde Nast International). The Directors Circle raises the dough for upcoming exhibitions and events or general funds - the musuem's annual budget is about £70m of which half comes from commercial activities and donations. We are now pursuing a large gift in return for the naming of the new entrance on Exhibition Road. £5 million cheap.

After our meeting, which includes update presentations from the curators on FuturePlan (futuristic everything) and designer Balenciaga (my otherwise quiet neighbour gushes about her Balenciaga which she wears now, of course), we head for the Cast Court for drinks.

And the Cast Courts are seriously amazing, perhaps my favourite thing inside the V&A. First opened in 1873, the Cast Courts were purpose built to house one of the most comprehensive collections of casts of post-classical European sculpture. Pictured. I meet the new head of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass Department who promises me a tour of the court's balconies - otherwise untouched by visitors for a century and a throwback to the Victorian era. It is really Indiana Jones kind of stuff.

How honoured I am to be on the inside of a spectacular remarkable British institution. It is to Sonnet I bow.

Tuesday, March 8

Rusty Leads

Rusty has a walk
Five years along and nothing learned. And then there is the dog.

Sonnet attends an informational evening to introduce the US college application process to (insane) British and ex-pat parents (mothers).  Sonnet notes that the SATs have been completely revamped and the advisers recommend taking the ACTs as well as the SATs to provide full coverage and reduce any uncertainty from the new SAT format. One can never be too careful about one's future.

I took the ACTs (then known as The Achievement Exams or simply "The Achievements") once, on a Saturday morning in 1984, next to Hinks department store in Berkeley. I chose three subjects, didn't prepare, and never looked back. The SATS another story - Stanley Kaplan, lost afternoons to horrible practise tapes - but even then the preparation barely minimal. Back then it was rare to get a perfect score; today it is de riguerir for the tutored classes.

And one pretty much does have to get a perfect SAT when Stanford accepts 5.1% and the Ivies are generally below 10%.

Canada has it about right: no entrance exam, no recommendations and it is cheaper. Canadians happy in college and thereafter.

Monday, March 7

Hockey Action

Maddy O chases the ball.
Emanuel's A team takes on Ibstock School at the Bank of England, going down 2-zero in a hard fought match that sees our gals out-gunned in the second half. Afterwards each side gives the other two 'hips' and a 'hooray!' followed by chocolate chip cookies.

Madeleine: "It felt so good to yell out there today."
Me: "At home you're 'Madeleine Orenstein', the nerd lost behind her books."
Me: "But on the pitch it's "Maddy O", dragon of fire, fierce and determined athlete."
Madeleine: "Yeah."
Me: "You've developed a bit of a reputation, you know."
Me: "Everybody knows your name."

Sunday, March 6

Me And Eitan

Sonnet and I now frequently reflect on the reality that the Shakespeares will soon be gone. As every parent must agree, these little people who we have watched from the beginning become so interesting. And in a heartbeat our chapter will be over and their book will begin.

Barnes SC And DofE

Eitan prepares for the Duke of Edinburgh 
I have joined the Barnes Swim Club. Practises are in the evenings from 8-9:30PM so not practical but the weekends are 10:30AM for two hours. So, after 28 years, I complete my first workout of 4.5km. As I tell Jan, a New Zealander who trained for 18 months in Ft Lauderdale and now in London and cut like Adonis: "I preferred the old model" when it comes to me. I keep up with him using flippers. At this age, I could care less about etiquette.

Eitan comes in late Friday night and so unable to pack for his D of E overnight "survival" in Surrey. The temperatures around zero and sleeting and I have to force him to take my heavy winter jacket. In the car I ask if he's got his credit card? and he shrugs no way. Some things must be learned the hard way I suppose.

Madeleine: "Can I have some money for dinner?" [Dad's note: Madeleine has some friends over for dinner]
Me: "How much?"
Madeleine: "forty pounds."
Me: "What? When I was your age I never asked for $60 dollars for dinner."
Madeleine: "Yeah because that was like 50 years ago."
Me: "It's a fair point."
Madeleine: "It's my turn anyway. To pay for dinner."
Me: "What does Mom say?"
Madeleine: "40."
Me: "I'll transfer it now. Moe would never approve."
Me: "Now is when I say 'money doesn't grow on trees.'"
Madeleine: "Whatever Dad. Can you just do it now?"

Friday, March 4

Lord Of The Flies

Eitan is Ralph
Eitan is "Ralph" in the school class play "Lord Of The Flies". It's a long showing, to, or about 45 minutes which means the small cast must know their lines. Cold. Eitan is admirable in the lead role, which he is somehow suited for.

From Cliff's Notes: Ralph. The elected leader of the boys and the main protagonist. He is neither the smartest nor the strongest but has a kind of quiet charisma and good looks. He tries to keep the boys focused on domestic order and the rules of civilization but loses his authority and almost his life to Jack's seizure of power.

The boy is happy when it is done.

Tuesday, March 1

Shake It Up

Katie celebrates with her friends Lisa Witter and Jacki Zehner, the CEO of Women Moving Millions, at the WMM gala last summer (WMM mission statement: "To catalyse unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls"). Peas in a pod.

Eitan: "I have an overnight. For the Duke of Edinburgh." [Dad's note: The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (known as DofE) is for those of 14 - 24 years and has three award levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold, based on volunteering, physical, skills and expedition. It is not milquetoast]
Madeleine: "You're camping?"
Eitan: "Yeah. We are testing our survival skills."
Me: "By 'survival' do you mean 'time between trips to McDonald's?'"
Sonnet: "Don't listen to your father."
Me: "Just make sure you take a credit card."
Eitan: "Why should I take a credit card."
Me: "Isn't this about survival?"
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "So take a credit card. Tesco is your oyster."
Me: "Well I'm glad that's sorted."

Godzilla Rises

Today is Super Tuesday in the US and we are all interested in Trump, whose fat face is about everywhere. The Republicans have created him, they deserve him, and God hope he does not become the next US president. Interestingly Bernie Sanders polls better against Trump than Clinton - not surprising, I suppose, given the shrinking Middle Class like a bunch of angry hornets. They are pissed off at the status quo, Washington and mainly the Republican party who has delivered them nothing. They don't want an insider like Hillary or Rubio who might actually be able to govern. No, they want blood.

Because of Trump, Senate seats that should not be contested are suddenly in play. The Senate not helping itself by failing to meet any proposed SCJ nomination by Obama to replace that fuck Scalia and his anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-gun, Citizens United court. 

The waters have been poisoned for many years and now Godzilla rises from the radioactive muck.

Sunday, February 28

Surf's Up

So, in fact, Madeleine turned 14 earlier this month. Her birthday present a 7' surf-board, for which she campaigned following a family week spent in Marina Del Mar, Oceanside, California in December where the kid stood up. Pictured.

There is, I am aware, good surfing in England - mainly in Devon and Cornwall (about 5 hours drive from London) - but the water is typically below 60 degrees and requires a 4/3 density suit, booties, gloves and a hoodie to be tolerable. The water coldest in the first quarter but such things no deterrent for our surfer girl, who begs me to take her for a weekend or longer. It will come if only to ensure she uses here present once.

Madeleine via text about something: Thankyoooooooo❤️
Immediate follow up: Emoji unintended

Madeline text: Can you do me a favour? Because I don't know how the printer works can u print off 3 different versions of McBeth witches for me?

I send Madeleine a text photo of Vermeer's 'Girl With A Pearl Ear Ring."
Madeleine text response: That's a cool painting Dad.

Saturday, February 27

English National Cross Country Championships

Eitan and I head north to Leicester for the English x-country nationals, the culmination of the season and a lot of hard work. We enjoy a pleasant enough ride along the M1, stopping for refreshments and to pick up the "Planet Of The Apes" cd which we listen to along the way. We chat about various things and he graciously accepts my views on training, racing etc. though he outgrew my advise some long time ago.

We stay at classy Best Western hotel with, weirdly, a Marco Pierre White restaurant which suggests strongly that the chef's franchise has fallen off the shelf. Anyways, it's Friday night, and the town is dressed up and ready to drink. Tomorrow the hotel hosts a "fancy wedd'n" (our receptionist gushes) "which is Medieval themed".

The boy and I turn out the lights early, then up at 7AM (me) and 9AM (Eitan) then to Donington Park where the 4.5km course is a circle loop around an ancient castle. Of note, there is a serious hill at the 2km mark. Paula Radcliffe has won the race a number of times as has Mo Farah. Good company.

The event is organised like a thumb over a smooth stone.  Eitan's U15s hosts 500+ boys who line up across a combed field. Bang, they're off, narrowing quickly to a single 'shoot', huffing and puffing and sprinting for position. Eitan is in the mix, up front.

Our hero runs a solid race, about 75th at the half and around the same at the end. He is pleased with his performance. We hit McDonald's on the drive home.

Tuesday, December 15

Purisma Creek

Roger and I hike the Purisma Creek Redwoods Reserve, on the western slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking Half Moon Bay. The canyon offers towering redwoods, a rushing creek and understory of ferns, berries and wildflowers. Coastal scrub and hardwood forests of tanoak, madrone and Douglas fir border the cool, moist canyon. Since rain, damp and brooding.


The last we saw Roger, Box had gone public and now we see the fruits of the IPO: a shiny new building in Redwood City straight out of a Stanley Kubrick movie with automatic industrial lighting, painted walkways with coded numbers identifying offices and conference rooms and immaculate white work stations (desks which can be raised for standing).  Lunch and drinks still free. The self-serve snack-bar 24/7. Keg on every floor. Since an Internet company, there is a nap room. I want in.

Roger's team responsible for the partnership'n and revenue generat'n. His team multi-national which means Indian. I am certain they have a good time. Roger's style, aferall.

At the Hertz car rental. Agent: "What's your postal code. For the credit card."
I offer my postal cod.
Agent: "What kind of a postal code is that?"
Me: "It's in London."
Agent: "You live in London?"
Me: "Yes. Since 1997."
Agent: "Why'd you move to London?"
Me: "It's either a job or a girl."
Agent: "Damn straight." He offers his hand and we shake.

A Gathering

Sonnet and her cousins in Denver on the sad news of Bill Stanfill's passing. Missing from the photo is Derek.

Sunday, December 13


Confederate Flag, Confederate War Cemetery, Raleigh, NC
Two battles outside of Raleigh at the Civil War's end, Averasboro and Bentonville, flooded the capital with wounded to the point that private residents were taking in soldiers. The battle of Averasboro was meant to slow General Sherman and his fire-happy troops, who had just torched Georgia and made their way north through South Carolina uncontested.

500+ unknown tombstones.