Wednesday, December 28
The mother and child reunion
Zakkai will also take the GCSEs in 2017. He is focusing on the sciences and will likely study mathematics and philosophy in university. He is also Scarecrow in his school's production of 'The Wizard of Oz' and recently selected to play in an Oxford production of Romeo and Juliet. Mostly he's a confident and engaged kid who does not seem overly pressurised by his future.
When we last saw Zebulon (Zakkai's older brother) he was finishing his A-Levels, having scored 12 A* on his GCSEs (perfect). He now awaits the decision from Cambridge to study computer sciences. He has already been accepted to Imperial College and others, but Cambridge is where he wants to be. Zebulon bides the time writing an algorithm to observe how viruses spread from mosquito to the human population.
Alain, moving on from the famous eigenstrains, is set to publish his book "The Mathematics and Mechanics of Biological Growth" which can be pre-ordered on Amazon for Gbp 100. He hopes to make it required reading for his graduate students.
We circle the table discussing goals for 2017. Mine: finish Game Of Throwns and meditate.
No 1 dog in England
I meet Ben West who is tending his sheep. We strike up a conversation about his border collie, a dog that responds to the whistle and keeps the 60 odd sheep whole.
A couple months ago I was on an estate outside Amsterdam and observed the world champion border collie in action - a remarkable animal, selected by its master for an enthusiasm for sheep. It's all the dog thinks of, sheep. And herding them. Any damn dog can be smart. It's passion one looks for.
So it turns out that Ben and his dog were No. 1 in the England sheep dog competitions in 2012 and he is on his way to Amsterdam to compete in the world championships next month.
Funny what one learns when one talks to somebody, anybody.
We are in the lovely lull between Christmas and the New Year when the only thing to do is go with the flow. Nobody answers emails. Shops are mostly closed. London is cold and a good book beckons. As I read "A Song Of Fire And Ice", all five volumes at c.800 pages each, I have a week before work becomes a distraction.
We drive to Oxford to walk the Wytham Woods, an area of ancient woodlands owned by Oxford and used for environmental research. The woods were bequeathed the university in 1942 by the ffennel family, after the death of their lonely daughter, Hazel, for their upkeep, study and educational use. There are over 500 species of vascular plants and 800 species of butterflies and moths here.
Wytham is one of the most researched woodlands in the world from birds to badgers and, more recently, the impacts of climate change.
‘Let this wretched year come to an end.’
--George R.R. Martin summarises 2016
Tuesday, December 27
Gracie and Maggie
Gracie has her last chemo session today, something we have been waiting for since September and are so very grateful it is almost over.
We spend Boxing Day at the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, then - at home - we watch the original, which is far superior to the prequels and sequels. I point this out to Simon and his son Michael, who are off to catch the 1927 five hour silent film 'Napoléon' showing at the London Film Institute. Can't really compete with that.
Monday, December 26
RIPPrince, David Bowie, Maurice White (Earth, Wind and Fire), Lenard Cohen, Paul Katner (Jefferson Airplane), Glenn Fry (The Eagles), Phife Dawg (Tribe Called Quest), Merle Haggard (country music legend) and now George Michael. Our icans leave us, and most in the prime of their lives or, at least, before 60.
1987 was the year of Michael's 'Faith' and it was unmissable especially if a sophomore in college. Funk Nights at Brown grooved to his pop, as did the discotheques in Manhattan and San Francisco where I sometimes went. His raw style - those ripped jeans and urban boots ! The sunglasses and hair ! - had a most profound impact, even if not fully credited to GM. From Each Finchley, London, he reached full scale in America.
Mike, the federal judge and lifelong friend who married me and Sonnet, once informed: "your 50s are the killing fields", as life's poor living choices come home to roost. In this decade, which I will soon enter, death is unexpected and mortality still in reach. Smoking, booze, drugs and fast food diets and just living mow the unfortunate down early.
Shell shockedOf the Big Decisions impacting my life this year I am 0 for 3: Heathrow Third Runway, Brexit and Trump. A Gbp 1000 bet on all three occurring would have won over a mil. I believe it: only H3 seemed possible given the craven nature of the Tory government and a need for more jumbos, no matter how pollutive and disruptive to the millions of us underneath. But Trump ? (I immediately cancelled my twitter account).
The worst of the three however, Brexit, will take one generation to succeed, similar to the post Second World War period, with over 30,000 civil servants to be focused on renegotiating some 240 post war treaties which each took, on average, 7 years to sign. It will effect an aeon.
To look at the currency collapse or minor econ bumps/ slowdowns is foolhardy; long-term, we will see a decline of London's influence as global banks shift to the continent for access to the trading block while other services, like currency clearing houses, move to Frankfurt. The young, hungry and educated will find their opportunities elsewhere. I would have.
London, dear reader, exports over £25b of wealth py to the rest of the country (compare this to Paris, which absorbs France's income) and the Southeast accounts for Britain's growth. Messing with the engine is dangerous and, at a minimum, the jewel of the crown will become less .. interesting.
Madeleine reads 'Hotel New Hampshire' by John IrvingWe are re-doing the interior of our house - new floors installed, pictured, and now it is on to the other stuff like bathrooms, painting and the upstairs. Rusty has already raised a leg to Madeleine's newly laid carpet. If we did not love the pooch so, he would be in a potato sack at the bottom of the Thames.
Christmas 2016 has come. And gone. The Big Gifts this year were a virtual reality head-set (Eitan) and a record player and some vinyls (Madeleine). A new record btw costs £22, far different from the affordable disks I once bought on Telegraph Ave at Rather Ripped Records and Rasputin's for five bucks each. Ah, what a joy to lose oneself for hours flipping through the stacks, years before CDs killed the album cover and the feelings they inspired in us kids. Then hitting Comics And Comics and Blondie's Pizza for a Coke and a slice for the walk across the Berkeley Campus and home. Allowance well spent.
But I digress.
The gift to the whole family is Katie. Pretty cool to have a younger sister. Who lives in Manhattan. Who has founded a business transforming how ideas circulate in media and is influencing media.
Sunday, December 25
A tree by our house
It has been a busy year that is now drawing to a close. Katie arrived two days ago to spend Christmas with us. She is a wonder with her nephew and niece, making them laugh, talk and think in a way Sonnet and I can't touch in our routine conversations.
Eitan revises for his mock exams in January then the real thing, the long-anticipated GCSEs, in April-May. Madeleine studies for January exams as well.
Yes, there is a lot to be thankful for, even 2016, a year of populism, racism, sexism, exit-ism, anti-semitism, Trumpism, plagiarism, voter fraud and general treachery. The jackels are back in power and we, the people, without Hunter S Thompson or Alex Cockburn to shine a light on what will certainly be the most corrupt administration to ever hold High Office in America. Those who voted for the man will surely be punished for it (Health Insurance ? Blue collar jobs ? Transparency and freedom ? Good bye to all that). None of us will be the better for it.
Madeleine, Alphie, Eitan, Fred and Shaheen
It's a motley crew, no doubt, but they do return within 15 minutes of the instructed 7:15PM meeting time. Madeleine reports that she and Alphie explored Paris by foot but mostly in the marais getting there along the Seine. Eitan - well, who knows ? - but the boys seemed to have had a great time.
It is a pleasure to be around this group. Friendly and polite to other people and adults almost to a fault yet wrapped up in their own world of interests and insults and things that young people do.
Me: "What's the name of the train station?"
Eitan: "Umm .."
Me: "Alphie, what's the name of the train station?"
Me: "Ok, its Gare du Nord. This is where we are meeting this evening. Each of you say it."
Eitan: "We get it Dad."
Me to Shaheen: "Train station?"
Shaheen: "Gare du Nord."
Me to Fred: "Train station?"
Shaheen: "Gare du Nord."
Me to Alphie: "Where are we meeting tonight?"
Alphie: "Gare du Nord."
Me: "You have my mobile. Call me from the police station."
Madeleine: "Ha-ha-ha, Dad."
Gare du NordSonnet and Oriel were in the same program at the Courtauld Art Institute, studying the history of European costume and dress, taught by the formidable Dr Eileen Ribeiro, some 18 years ago. Both are curators at the V&A.
Sonnet, with the help of the Op-Ed project, has an opinion - with photo - published in the New York Times addressing the failure of the world's biggest museums to hire women at the top. Same for the V&A where 75% of the curators are women. Her piece timely as the V&A searching for a new Director while the Chairman tells me, "we cannot get women to apply for the job."
"LONDON — The directors of two of the world’s most popular art museums recently announced their resignations. Martin Roth, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, will step down this year, and Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate museums, both in Britain, will depart next year. These job vacancies, which search committees are now working to fill, offer an opportunity to correct the gender imbalance in art museum leadership in Britain, America and beyond.
In 2015, the world’s top 12 art museums as based on attendance — what I call the “directors’ dozen” — were all led by men. When Frances Morris became the director of the Tate Modern in April, she became the first woman to join the club. This gender gap extends from Europe to North America, where only five of the 33 directors of the most prominent museums (those with operating budgets of more than $20 million) are women, including Kaywin Feldman of the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Nathalie Bondil of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It’s the leaders of those big-budget institutions who set the tone for all. "
--Sonnet Stanfill, NYT, extract, October 19, 2016
Fred sleeps on the EurostarSonnet visits a donor in Paris so the gang heads for St Pancras, 5:30AM, for a Day Trip. Joining Madeleine is Alphie, who is into photography and film, which is influencing our little darling in a most wonderful way: Madeleine now shooing film with my ancient Pentax SuperME camera. Eitan joined by Shaheen and Fred, who is a music scholar at Hampton. Three peas in a pod.
In Paris, I hand each kid 6 metro tickets, a bunch of Euros for emergency, and tell them to be at Gare du Nord at 7:15Pm. I watch them scramble into the crowd, then turn around and head for the office.
Me to Alphie: "I like your hair cut kid."
Madeleine: "Dad why do you always have to be so embarrassing."
Me: "What? It's cool. Clipped on the side, long on top. Believe it or not, it is how we used to wear our hair back in the days before the mobile phone and the automobile."
Alphie: "Thank you Mr Orenstein."
Madeleine: "They so had cars when you were my age."
Me: "We went to this hair salon called Peter Thomas on Shattuck. A bunch of my friends got free haircuts in return for modelling."
Me: "Funny what you remember like it was yesterday."
A few colleagues
I catch up on my blog.
Earlier this month Astog is selected the No. 1 middle-market buyout firm in Europe while the Eur 2.1 billion Astorg VI, which closed June 30, takes 2nd place in the fundraising category (yours, truly, gave up a few lives on that one) by PE Exchange, representing some 1200 institutional investors. It is peer recognition for a team that works hard, shows up every day, and delivers results.
I tell Charles-Hubert (far left) not to put the trophy in his bedroom, like he did last year. Sometimes I wonder if the French get, or even appreciate, my sense of humour. Other times I wonder if I push it too far .
The London office
The London office celebrates at a Peruvian lunch in Mayfair. My commitment to an alcohol light afternoon discarded by 3PM with the evening ending at 10PM. As I tell Michael, a new German colleague and the guy in front in red sweater, in the taxi home: "What happens in Frankfurt stays in Frankfurt." On point, I am not sure what it means or if it is clever.
Madeleine: "I want to go to Hawaii. For vacation."
Me: "Yep. Only trouble is you might never come back."
Madeleine: "It would be so nice."
Me: "You might toss out your UK passport right there."
Madeleine: "And then I would go to California."
Me: "The beauty of it is - you can, no problem."
Madeleine: "All my friends are talking about going to America and I can just do it."
Me: "And you don't have to work or get married."
Me: "So you can live in the states without a visa."
Me: "If any of your friends were to come to me and ask for your hand. .."
Me: "I would be like, no problem. She's a live one."
Madeleine: "You would not."
Me: "Only don't come to me for money."
Madeleine: "Gee, thanks Dad."
Me: "I expect you'll be living with us. Isn't it enough?"
Madeleine: "Can we talk to mom now ?"
Saturday, October 29
1530Madeleine and I have had a great visit (as we prepare for the red eye). Our week includes a lot of time with Gracie and Moe (and Katie !), some business meetings for me, visits with friends and watching college football with Moe (Cal gets killed by USC). Madeleine and I also hang out - at least, she is a trooper, accompanying me to various places when she could be on Snapchat. I love this kid.
Gracie and Moe cherish the time with her.
Roger recently left Box, where he was on the early team, to join Amazon's web services business, which has grown from zero to $12bn in ten years, including a 55% increase over last year. WTF ? Amazon and Microsoft own 60% of the infrastructure behind cloud storage. What was a small business for Amazon has become critical to the company's growth. Roger will own several product initiatives.
We watch college fb : Ohio State v Northwestern, where Moe went to college. Moe transferred to Northwestern from Colgate, where he had an honorary scholarship (he says, "I was expected to have a lot of promise." Indeed). He transferred from Colgate, located in Hamilton NY, for a less isolating college experience.
I left my heart in San Francisco
Madeleine and I cruise over to Buena Vista Island, also know as "Treasure Island", which is the center point of the Bay Bridge, smack in the middle of the SF bay. I have never been on the island in my 49 years, but I have been through it 1000s of times.
The island once hosted a Naval Base, which closed 20 years ago, and now mostly dilapidated though the developers, it is rumoured, are circling. The views of San Francisco are stunning.
These stupid Hillary Clinton emails have everybody bored out of their minds. FBI head James Comey under pressure to act, otherwise surely the FBI will be accused by the Trump morons of withholding vital info before the elections. Only problem is, the new emails don't appear to have anything to do with Hillary, and Comey has not released all the information, leaving us with innuendo. Please God let it end.
My parents keep to their normal routine : Moe is up at 4AM and at the Berkeley Y by 5AM, where he sees his fellow gym rats who exchange jokes and insults. I bump into the famous Jack Ball, who is part of the crew. Jack was my PE teacher in 7th grade, and has memories of Katie and me, age 11, running around the King Jr High track or doing pull ups or other some such thing. I do believe we set records for the Jr High mile (me, 5:50)
We join Rob and Sloan, plus their fab kids Sophie and Jaimes for dinner in Mill Valley. Sophie, a Sophomore, is thriving. Her brain is going 100 miles a minute as she jumps from a home work project, to the school play to social media and then her friends. She occupies the space with her stories. Jaimes, not to be over shadowed by her older sister, is excelling in gymnastics and competing at the state level. She won a big tournament and was rewarded with a family dog, Bear (Rob and Sloan set the challenge assuming she would not win the thing). Bravo !
as I remember it.
We start in Santa Cruz looking for surf but the ocean is unaccommodating. Instead, we walk along the shoreline checking out the scene which, mid-week, is mostly middle-aged types walking their dogs. Where are the surfer dudes , I wonder ? No doubt at 3 or 4 mile point, classic breaks shown to me by Danny when he was a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz and writing about the surfing life. His book, 'Caught Inside', made a literary ripple.
We end our day at Mike and Andrea's for dinner, including fab kids Eli and Ruby. Missing is Oscar, who is now in Manhattan making a go at the fashion world. We recall fondly his visit.
Madeleine btw will either go to college in California or end up here with a back pack.
Tuesday, October 25
Madeleine and I in Berkeley visiting Moe and Gracie (who receives her 7th chemo session as I write). Yesterday we catch BART to San Francisco to kick around Market St and do some shopping. Sushi included, of course.
Madeleine rediscovers the joys swimming, which is somehow perfect for jet lag and (for me) life. We do our laps at the Golden Bear Rec Club off Durant in the North Berkeley Hills. The vistas of the Bay Area are superb and seeing the blue sky sure beats the indoor pools I must accept in London. An added bonus : This is where I trained my last year of High School.