Tuesday, November 30

@ Three Weeks

It is hard for Sonnet and me to imagine this little creature is now Eitan. We knew Eitan, and Madeleine, special at birth - every parent knows this about their child. And Sonnet sure had to work hard to bring them into this world (esp. Madeleine - a 90-minute delivery without epidural). The first night in the St Mary's maternity ward the doctor told us, gravely, that Eitan's heart valves not sealed and a 'clicking' in his hips. She noted "99% of the time things are fine in 24 hours." Sonnet spent an extra night at the hospital while I went home and worried. We were too stunned by it all to imagine a complication. And the doctor was right - two days later, everything fine.

Photo by Silver.

Saturday, November 27

Wedding Post

Sophie, in the backseat and our neighbor Helen's (pictured, center) daughter, gets hitched. I grab my camera and join the neighborhood who line up to wish her well and good luck. Helen herself married to Martin who was born in the house pictured - Martin 80 or so and his mum a Wimbledon champion so he is a member of the club. Not too many people may claim that convenience. Martin knows more about stuff than most people I know and maybe as much as Arthur - on occasion Martin and I have discussed tree-pruning, WWII bombing strategies and gas lamps, which were across London until '64 when replaced by electrics. Helen has become our go-to in case of emergency : like several weeks ago when Aneta and I got our languages mixed up and Madeleine at home, solo, for the afternoon. After a while she marched herself across the yard, knocked on Helen's door, and announced she had been "Forgotten." Inside a moment I get a text on my mobile and a call at work. Madeleine very cool about the whole thing - no tears - but I know she was pretty upset especially since she has seen "Home Alone" and "Home Alone II."

I do five-hours of outside work which I heartily enjoy but today freezing and my hands numb by the end. Since it may snow yet I wanted to get the piles bagged.

Sports Day

KPR practice cancelled as the pitch frozen solid. Instead, we do a little one-on-one time where I beat him up. Or he beats me up, I don't know any more. He runs circles around me and I remember when he could barely keep up with the ball. It is properly cold but feels nice to be outside - I remind him of my swim practices, 6AM, poolside and freezing our nuts off knowing full well that the only thing worse was the shock of jumping into the cold pool. This is becoming my five-mile walk through the snow to get to school. Or the fish that keeps growing bigger. But Moe was there, right Moe? KPR meant to play the Whitton Wanderers tomorrow but I give it 50:50.

This afternoon Sonnet takes the kids the the Junior Borough Swimming Championships and Madeleine scores fourth in backstroke and second in breaststroke and is pleased as punch. Sonnet informs me Madeleine nervous before her race - especially the backstroke where she is expected to do a "tumble turn" between the first and second laps. It turns out Ok. Madeleine breathless when she tells me about the breaststroke race and avoiding being disqualified "if your feet touch together." Tomorrow she swims the 66-meters front crawl and the 133-meter freestyle relay in our weird 33 meter pools. Madeleine now at Pandemonium toy store rewarding herself for an excellent performance.


I wish Toy Story 3 had the same effect on me. Molly spends the night and the Shakespeares up at the crack of dawn to watch their television. On my side, despite having more choice than ever in my life, I am no longer enthralled by the boob tube. Nor movies - we have not been to a film since I can remember. Sonnet and I once had a weekly date night which usually included some cheap Lebanese then the cinema somewhere in the West End but alas no more. Or when the babes were crawling we rented oldies like "African Queen" or "North By Northwest" Sunday evenings once the monsters down. It was the best couple hours of the week. The only reason, in fact, we pay Rupert Murdoch any money at all (Rupert Murdoch who I cannot stand for destroying the WSJ and hoisting Fox News on a dumbed down nation) is football. He owns the Premiere League when, in 1992, his BSkyB outbid the BBC for exclusive broadcasting rights by paying £302 million - a monstrous amount of money for then; before Rupert, the games were free. Bastard. The boy cannot live without it- heroes and all that.

During my banking interviews I was once asked, by an adult twice my age with a nice tie and grey hair - for my heroes. Without hesitation I said my father. A hero, after all, is a mythic sort of figure while my dad was, well my dad. As a yuf I think I mostly admired swimmers like Rowdy Gaines (who I follow on Facebook) and the great Swedish butterflier Par Aardvison. Today I wish to emulate my friends. One or two are mentors.

Eitan I know worships Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and before that, Christiano Rinaldo, before he went to Real Madrid (the tears !). Before that - Spider Man. Madeleine keeps mainly to herself on these things. At least I have not seen any thing or any one. She marches to the beat of her own drum.

Me: "Give me something for my blog."
Madeleine: "Like what?"
Me: "I don't know. How about the dog?"
Madeleine (without inflexion): "Rusty is an adorable dog. I am so glad we got him. Only he can be a bit lazy in front of the radiator."
Madeleine: "Howz that?"

Friday, November 26

Any Morning

Aneta brushes Rusty's teeth. Eitan does a karate chop. That's our new boiler behind him - now installed - heat! Just in a nick of time, too.

King's Assembly

Madeleine's class assembly yesterday afternoon and Sonnet and I join for the show. The kids belt out some tunes around a plot involving King Henry VIII - Madeleine, indeed, is King Henry. Along with two others. Madeleine also a presenter: "When he died, she married Henry and they had six children however only one survived. Mary ! Please welcome Catherine of Aragon!" Mr H, the Head Teacher, tells the children what a marvelous job they have done and how fabulous they are. And they are.

Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was also Lord of Ireland (later King of Ireland) and claimant to the Kingdom of France. He was the second monarch of the House of Tudor, succeeding his father, Henry VII.

Besides his six marriages, Henry VIII is known for separating the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. Henry's struggles with Rome led to the separation of the Church of England from papal authority, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and establishing himself as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. He changed religious ceremonies and rituals and suppressed the monasteries, while remaining a believer in core Catholic theological teachings, even after his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.

Henry also oversaw the legal union of England and Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542.Henry was an attractive and charismatic man in his prime, educated and accomplished. He ruled with absolute power. His desire to provide England with a male heir—which stemmed partly from personal vanity and partly because he believed a daughter would be unable to consolidate the Tudor Dynasty and the fragile peace that existed following the Wars of the Roses—led to the two things that Henry is remembered for today: his wives, and the English Reformation that made England a Protestant nation. In later life he became morbidly obese and his health suffered; his public image is frequently depicted as one of a lustful, egotistical, harsh and insecure king.
(sources - Wiki: J. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII; Robert M. Adams, The land and literature of England; and Eroc Ives, "Will the Real Henry VIII Please Stand Up?")

"Henry the 8th he had six wives
All of them lived in fear of their lives
Two were divorced and one of them died
Two were behead and one survived"
--Children's nursery rhyme sung at assembly


Eitan's school team, pictured, with mascot, pre-race. This morning over cereal the boy mumbles that he has a 10AM cross country race and we can watch if we want to. So I do. Ten or so teams compete or 75 in the boys and girls races, which go off separately. The course a 1.5 mile loop around the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park. Mum Karen, who is a professional athlete originally from Iceland, the volunteer coach - God bless her+she is good : Karen the European tri-athlete champion and recently completed the Australian Iron Man finishing 23rd overall. She will probably do Hawaii next year. Companies sponsor her. Karen laments that the boys train only once a week. I am sure with Karen's guidance these ten-year-olds would be doing daily doubles no problemo. Karen's son Trigvy a remarkable athlete himself who plays for the KPR reds (the other under-10 KPR football team) and this morning Trigvy wins the race. Eitan second.

The boys come round the last corner, into view, and on to the final straight-away heading to the finish gate with Trigvy looking over his shoulder and Eitan 20 feet behind. Eitan has a runner on his shoulder who he out-guns by the end. His advantage is size and a skinny frame while his long hair makes him look like Steve Prefontaine. But I get ahead of myself. The lads are all beat red and their breathe puffs in the cold air; they are please with themselves and I am happy to be invisible on the sidelines.

"Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it."
--Steve Prefontaine

Hard Drugs

Nutella, which the kids swim in this morning, a hazelnut flavored sweet spread produced by Italian company Ferrero from the end of 1963. The recipe developed from an earlier Ferrero recipe '49. Nutella sold in over 75 countries. Gianduja is a type of chocolate analogue containing approximately 50% almond and hazelnut juice. It was developed in Piedmont, Italy, after taxes on cocoa beans hindered the diffusion of conventional chocolate. Pietro Ferrero, who owned a patisserie in Alba, in the Langhe district of Piedmont, an area known for the production of hazelnuts, sold an initial batch 660 lb of "Pasta Gianduja" in 1946. This was originally a solid block, but in 1949, Pietro started to sell a creamy version in 1951 as "Supercrema". In 1963, Pietro's son Michele revamped Supercrema with the intention of marketing it across Europe. Its composition was modified and it was renamed "Nutella". The first jar of Nutella left the Ferrero factory in Alba on 20 April 1964. The product was an instant success.

The estimated Italian production of Nutella averages 179,000 tons per year.

Me: "What do you think of Nutella?"
Madeleine: "Amazing. I haven't had it since year three."

Source: Wikipedia;

Met Office : Severe Winter Warning

These Brits love a spell of foul weather - something to bond over. And heavy snow expected, too, for London and Surrey by Saturday. If so, this will be the earliest snow in seventeen years. This, though, being the second warmest year on record. The kids amped - it wakes them early for an immediate check on the outside. The "arctic storm" will keep things sub-zero for the next ten days or so; the pond froze over last night and frost covers everything. While most think of a white Christmas, I think : transportation chaos. The dog starts yapping at 5AM so Sonnet and I take the pooch for a walk around the block. For a dog, he sure hates it - "Rusty" would rather sit in front of the heater and who can blame him?

Sonnet visits St Catherine's School, a possible school for Madeleine who will enter secondary school in two years. She notes "warm, friendly, all girls. The Head Mistress, a nun, wore a business suit."

Yesterday's Thanksgiving makes for a slow day in the UK - my emails halved. Katie spends the holiday with Aunt Marcia and Larry in Bronxville where the Seabrings host the turkey this year. Four families trade holiday gatherings which has been "going on for some time," Marcia notes. Per tradition, the men put on their aprons and do the dishes afterwards.

The kids studying the planets in school
Madeleine: "We are all aliens. Did you know that?"
Madeleine: "We are aliens from outer space."
Eitan: "That is so obvious."
Madeleine: "Does anybody live on Mars?"
Me: "Not yet but scientists are talking about how to visit. The problem is the getting back."
Madeleine: "Can't they build a big gas station or something?"
Me: "Good one. That is the idea."

Eitan spills Cheerios on the floor and I catch him putting back in the box.
Me: "Are you out of your mind?"
Eitan: "What?"
Me: "Would you lick the floor with your tongue?"
Eitan: "Er, yes?"

I promise the kids Nutella and - to their great surprise - I bring a jar home. Eitan glops it onto his oatmeal which gets me a dirty look from Sonnet (Eitan in background growling: "mmmm loving this.")

Sonnet: "You've been wearing that to bed. You cannot where it to school."
Madeleine: "Yes I can."
Sonnet: "Try me."

Photo from the www.

Tuesday, November 23

Zoe And Fuzzy+A Party Date Set

Zoe has settled into her grammar school in Devon - one of the country's best. Last year she was working like mad but now it is under control - the shock behind her.

North Korea attacks South Korea. Ireland falls apart. Main news story : wedding date fixed for Kate and William in April, 2011. The PM grants a bank holiday week end. We are going to par-tay dude.


Willem with us this weekend for early Thanksgiving. Willem married to Halley, and we are also joined by their children and "Fozzy." which gives Rusty some companionship (they dogs establish whose dominant by growling and humping each other). Willem co-founded Exeter University's Mood Disorders Center, a research, clinical and training which he runs today. He joined the university in 1999 where he has had a number of roles including heading up the doctoral clinical psychology training programme, leading the clinical research group and academic lead for the Mood Disorders Centre. In 2006 he was awarded the May Davidson award for clinical psychologists who have made an outstanding contribution to the development of clinical psychology within the first 10 years of their work as a qualified clinical psychologist. He is a "grand-fathered" Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. Source: Willem's bio on website.

Last year, following a similar Thanksgiving re-union, I was in California driving on the 101, listening to NPR : there was Willem being interviewed.


I take this shot at the Royal Institute of British Architects which is one of my favorite spots to have lunch. Located on Portland Street between Regents Park and Oxford Circus, RIBA an art deco building with a sculpture garden extending from the restaurant. In the summer, lovely.

I join college friend Fergal, and HBS grad and 2:28 marathoner+a successful venture capitalist; we discuss the demise of Ireland which is all over the news. Recall that earlier this year, fears of a sovereign debt crisis sparked a euro crisis from profligates Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and our dear Ireland. This led to a confidence crisis as well as the widening of bond yield spreads and risk insurance on credit default swaps between these countries and other EU members, most importantly Germany.Concern about rising government deficits and debt levels across the globe together with a wave of downgrading of European government debt has created alarm in financial markets.

The debt crisis has been mostly centred on Greece and the rising cost of financing the government debt. In May, the Eurozone and the International Monetary Fund agreed to a €110 billion loan for Greece, conditional on the implementation of harsh Greek austerity measures. Also that month, Europe's Finance Ministers approved a comprehensive rescue package worth almost a trillion dollars aimed at ensuring financial stability across Europe by creating the European Financial Stability Facility. It is now being tested.

Ireland's only real economic advantage is their 12.5% corporate tax rate (set up in '86 on the advice of Ira Magaziner who also conceived Brown's "new curriculum" of no grades nor requirements), the lowest in the western world, which attracts foreign companies like Dell to the tiny country (by contrast : US, 39%, Singapore, 17%, UK, 28%). Taking the bail-out, Ireland forced to rethink this advantage. Fergal worried the brightest and the best shall leave. They always do.

We should thank our lucky stars that Gordon Brown kept us out of the Euro. Recall Tony and Peter Mandelson and others fought hard for Britain's inclusion. Super Gee, for all his failures of personality and style, did more for the UK than many appreciate. He should be remembered for this. And Blair - Iraq.

Sunday, November 21

Cal - Charlie Brown - Doonesbury

Cal goes down hard. Nothing redeems this season, which I began looking forward to with CW and Mike in June. Again I must say: "just wait 'til next year, damn it!"

Moving right along, I loved the "Peanuts" as a kid. I collected Charles Schulz's books and clipped the dailies and taped them into filing folders. At one point, I broke into a green recycling both at the Kensington hight street (Berkeley) for back newspapers. Funny what one remembers. I loved the story lines and got some weird thrill owning them to completion. Ob-ses-sion, dude.

On comics and football, Gary Trudeau celebrates 40 years of Doonesbury and interviewed on Radio 4. Doonesbury started in the Yale Daily News in '68 as "Bull Tales" when star Quarterback "B.D." meets Mike ("My name's Mike Doonesbury. I hail from Tulsa, Oklahoma and women adore me! Glad to meet you roomie!"). The Daily News's executive editor, Reed Hundt, eventually chaired the FCC and noted that the Daily News had a flexible policy about publishing cartoons: “We publish pretty much anything.” Doonesbury debuted as a daily in 1970 in two dozen newspapers following an offer Universal Press (Trudeau says Bull Tales meant for one semester or two semesters tops). He is still with UP today. Trudeau describes this early period as the Golden era of comics.

As a 7th-grader, I learned American history from Doonesbury: A November '72 strip of Zonker telling a little boy in a sandbox a fairy tale ends with the kid awarded “his weight in fine, uncut Turkish hashish” caused an uproar. During the Watergate scandal, a strip showed Mark on the radio with a “Watergate profile” of John Mitchell, declaring him “Guilty! Guilty, guilty, guilty!!” Trudeau sent B.D. to Viet Nam and Joanie to graduate school in her middle-age to begin a law career (Hello, mom!). Trudeau, in '76, introduces Mark as a homosexual (in the early- mid-80s my dad's law firm lost their mail-operations employee to AIDS; Moe's firm with him until the very end). There is much more, of course, covering Kissenger to Ford to Clinton. Trudeau took on the cigarettes industry for its lying and thieving and the Iran Contra affair. He famously depicted el Presidente as invisible. That was a good one. And then there is Zonker's uncle, Duke.

In '75, the strip won Trudeau a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, the first strip cartoon to be so honored. It was a Nominated Finalist in 1990, 2004, and 2005.

“The way I see it, it doesn't matter what you believe just so you're sincere.”
--Charles M. Schulz

Saturday, November 20

Go Bears!

There may be a lot of big games but there is only one Big Game. And that is Cal vs. Stanford. The first Big Game on March 19, 1892 on San Francisco's Haight Street grounds when Stanford beat Cal 14–10. It is the tenth longest rivalry in NCAA Division 1 football. Stanford leads the series record at 55–46–11 (wins–losses–ties). Cal won the most recent Big Game on November 21, 2009 by a score of 34–28. Cal has won seven of the last eight Big Games, following a seven game winning streak by Stanford. The location of the Big Game alternates between the two universities every year. In even-numbered years, the game is played at Berkeley, while in odd-numbered years, it is played at Stanford. There are also other competitions between the schools like "The Big Splash" (water polo), "The Big Spike" (volleyball),"The Big Freeze" (ice hockey), and "The Big Sweep" (Quidditch).

Us die-hard Bears fans like to think we are giving those privileged private-school golf-playing preppies a drudging when we win. It is therefore the more horrible when we don't.

Moe and Grace hosting a pre-Big Game party for 25 friends and Cal fans (no Cardinal red today). The outlook, Moe and I agree, not good: Stanford has the best quarterback in college football - Andrew Luck - and ranked #6 in the nation with a 9-1 record. Plus it is overcast and raining, Grace tells me. In short, perfect conditions for an upset. Go Bears!

Friday, November 19


Conrad's Soho neighbors this morning following a night of partying. They look in pretty good shape, too. Conrad and I shared a book club for seven or eight years (my interest fallen as I always felt like the dumb American. Maybe I am the dumb American). Conrad a strategy consultant (MBA from Wharton) and an inerior designer.

Dog Run

Easy material, "Rusty." The dog now sits, lies, waits and follows on command. All for a dog treat. His favorite 30 seconds is, and by far, meal-time, which he enjoys three-times a day. "Rusty" puts his full head into the dish and hoovers away. I scratch him behind an ear which gets a hind leg thumping; Madeleine curls up with the dog. Even Sonnet being won over slowly - she comments on "Rusty's" oversize paws which he has yet to grow into. This morning Eitan and I take the dog to the park and let him run around while Eitan works on his ball skills. It is foggy and soon "Rusty" gone and I spend five minutes searching for him before he turns up across the street in the hands of a nice construction guy who pulls his car over to ensure "Rusty" unhurt.

That Hair - Baby P

I tell Eitan he could be in a rock band. He smirks. His hair like the sixth member of the family (including "Rusty"). I join his class for the first time in a few years - in fact, not since I delivered a story about "Kit Kat Cowboy" and Eitan covered his eyes for 20 minutes. It was unnerving. This morning he protests and I take the bait: no embarrassement from me, no Sir (as I drop my trousers and show my stripy pants).

After passing school security (from today I am undergoing a background check by the Criminal Records Bureau as a matter of course for being in the classroom. This procedure new. Britain taking child protection seriously following "Baby P.") I join Mr B to find the classroom joyous. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in the background and the children singing. The sun shines through the window as I listen to little people laughing and chattering like something from Roger & Hammerstein. Mr B puts me to work filing papers then making black stars and white planets from construction papers - the solar system under investigation. Did you know that Neptune takes 164 earth years to travel around the sun? I didn't. (Note Eitan's shirt sprinkled with stars - "Mufti Day" dude). The kids well behaved (I think of "Rusty" - anybody can be trained) and one friendly gal takes the stage to present her "soap box" about a recent visit to Egypt. Captivating, too. Eitan able to contribute that King Tut's early demise most likely from undernourishment and a few violent bone-breaks which he describes with relish. His knowledge from the Denver Museum. I make a point of not noticing the boy though I am aware he is sensitive to my every movement.

The music and singing btw practice for the O2 center where the kids will perform over the holiday break.

Peter Connelly ("Baby P") was an English 17-month old boy who died in London after suffering more than 50 injuries over an eight-month period, during which he was repeatedly seen by Haringey Children's services and NHS health professionals. The case caused public shock partly because of the magnitude of Peter's injuries and partly because Peter had lived in the London Borough of Haringey, North London, under the same child care authorities that had already failed ten years earlier in the case of Victoria Climbié. A public enquiry resulted in measures to prevent similar cases happening. Peter's mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend, Steven Barker, and Jason Owe were convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child, the mother having pleaded guilty to the charge.

Wednesday, November 17

Royal Engagement

After nine years, Prince William no dummy. His marriage proposal to Kate Middleton follows ups and downs which have occupied the country and keep Fleet Street humming. God bless. The engagement in a nick of time, too, what with this horrible recession. Entertainment=religion. William does not disappoint either slipping his mother's engagement band on Kate's finger, noting Di won't miss a bit of the action. I feel Di's ever-loving presence upon them smiling her approval and making us all feel special somehow. It is easy to be cynical about these things when divorces and pre-nups the accepted norm in our Western World. There are similarities, too, between Kate and Di : both "common", ie, no Royal pedigree; each tall and beautiful. They have great style and enviable hair. Di 20 when she married Prince Charles and the media exposure killed her. Kate, on the other hand, knows the score and plays it like a pro. Since '07 Kate's privacy respected by the paps whom, she notes, a reason for her break-up with Wills last time. If today's headlines any indication, this will be one of the world's most visible events ever. Game on.

Sonnet and I have dinner with Simon and Diana at a favorite place, the River Café. The restaurant owned and run by renown chef Ruth Rogers and until early 2010, Rose Gray. The R-C earned its first Michelin Star in '88 and Sonnet and I dined here first time in '97. Not easy to find either : the restaurant next to various council estates and converted warehouse blocks on the northside of the Thames in Hammersmith not too far from the Hammersmith Bridge. Chefs who have trained at R-C include Sam and Sam Clark of Moro, Ed Baines of Randall & Aubin, April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig (in New York) and celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Tobie Puttock. The architectural design, by Stuart Forbes Associates and Sir Richard Rogers, simple, industrial and clean - at its opening this style years ahead of the nouveau blather now common in modern financial centers. Simon suggests the grouse, a seasonal game bird available for two months in late autumn, and it is amazing.

We met Simon and Diana at a Bat Mitzvah - Simon a venture capitalist and Diana a writer with a weekly food column for the LA Times before she moved to London. She raised a substantial amount of support for President Obama's '08 election, and we love hearing her and Simon's inside views on various affairs. Like Bush rushing his book "Decision Points" before Cheney comes out with his auto-biography which skewers el Presidente. Could be nasty. The kids home with "Rusty" and Aneta.

Photo by the paps in Ibiza.

"Religion is the opium of the people."
--Karl Marx

Tuesday, November 16

L'Equipe Suisse

Geneve Natation 1885, pictured, in 1982 or '83. I trained with this group during my year in Switzerland. Coach Tony Ulrich, in slacks, took an interest in me and, with my parents, made it possible : Tony sorted an exchange family and then again mid-way through the year when Claude turned out to be a dud and returned to his mommy midway through the year. Tony often picked me up at my host parent's flat or the train station for dark morning practices. Asst Ralph, on the far-left, not a great coach but enthusiastic - we travelled Israel for a month for training sessions and competitions. I stayed on a kibbutz and ate cucumbers and lettuce for breakfast. I saw the dome of rock and wailing wall; Jerusalem's Arab markets and where Jesus walked on water. We visited Masada and the Dead Sea and I touched Jordan.

GN composed of a small group of distance swimmers but mostly staffed with middle-distance experts and sprinters. World Record holder Dana Halsell for instance (third from right). Etienne Dagon, holding the trophy, won Switzerland's first swimming medal in an Olympics - a bronze in '84 in the 200-meter breast stroke, clocking 2:18. Etienne old for a swimmer - 24 then - and dating a 14-year old on the team. Ah Europe. Behind him the Jacot brothers who helped set the Swiss 4X100 freestyle relay record. Theophile David (behind Etienne, chiseled jaw) a 2:02 200-meter butterflier and awesome physical specimen - tall and handsome - he anchored his huge hands at the top of the stroke while his body rolled over and forward. Slow, powerful, graceful. Theo a finalist at the '83 European Championships and ranked #8th in the world but did not register at Los Angeles. Theo having an affair with my host-sister, age 16.

I was in Geneva a couple years ago and swam some laps at the 50-meter grand basin. I looked for Tony but he was no longer there.

Monday, November 15

Boiler Trouble

As our boiler out and no heat, we take comfort as we can - pictured. Some mornings, like this morning, we can see our breath. In the kitchen. When our plumber installed the radiators he failed to evacuate an air pocket so the pump blades spun in air (instead of water) and overheated. If not for the pressure discharge trip, the sucker would have blown. Do not mess around with a boiler. We now discuss whether his shoddy practices or an old boiler the root of the breakdown. The work-around not cheap. Sonnet buys ten "space heaters" and for Aneta (so miserable at one point I think she might move to the train station for warmth) an electric blanket. The kids have double comforters and Sonnet and I each other. I would like to suggest there is a sense of war-like bunkering-down and family bonding but mostly everybody cranky. We hope to have the problem fixed by Christmas. Suggestion to parents : bring warm clothes for the holidays.

Eitan: "We're learning about idioms in school"
Me: "Yes?"
Eitan: "Like 'don't teach grannie to suck eggs.'"
Eitan: "That's an idiom."
Me: "Don't you mean 'don't teach grannie to boil an egg?'"
Eitan: "No. I mean 'suck eggs.' That's what they told us in school."

Eitan: "I once fed a pigeon bread with tabasco."
Madeleine: "You said mustard."
Eitan: "Did not. I said tabasco."
Me: "Sounds like your story growing mister."
Madeleine: "Busted."


Madeleine not feeling well so I ditch work and she plays hookie. We go to IKEA, pictured, and I tell her that if we are stopped by a truant officer she should tell him she's a run-away. Since today one of those cold, grey Mondays it is quite appropriate to be at an enormous shopping center in Wembley buying .. home goods. I get fired up over a cup of coffee for kitchen towels and other crapola. We are here to buy "Rusty" a dog bed but walk away with a lot of stuff excluding a dog bed. Madeleine tags along dutifully and we practice her maths and spelling. She seems to be feeling much better and watches "Harry P" as I blog.

Sunday, November 14

Carshalton And Shane

Eitan, Wills and I drive to Merton to play the Carshalton Dragons. It is cold and damp and we sidliners warm ourselves with white coffee, two sugars. I'm told the largest council estate in Europe just around the corner. I go for a run to get the cold out and return by kick-off. KPR never trail in a 3-2 win. Eitan sets up two goals with cross-passes and scores the winner himself (the boys talk non-stop football in the back seat on the way home).

I arrive at 45 to find two plumbers, Jeff and Shane, in our kitchen examining the boiler which blew out couple weeks ago. Yes, no heat. The contractor, who put in our new radiators, wants a second opinion and Shane the independent third party (who we pay). I won't bore you. Shane a pretty cool guy who was a professional skate-boarder for 14 years before joining British Gas and then going solo. He laments being paid "peanuts" by his sponsors - now these kids make millions. Shane has been to Northern California for the World Skateboard Championship in '86 and was, according to him, ranked top two or three in the world. Here he is, below - a multi-talented dude.

Chess And Haitian Love Songs

This brother plays chess. We check him out on Broadway - and a very intense game too. The opponents bang down the time-clock and stair each other down. Make. Your. Move. Katie has to dash back to her apartment to pick up her bag before a train to Philadelphia and I spend the next two hours reading before a taxi to the airport notable as the driver from Haiti and we have an unusual conversation in French covering Haiti's suffering (his family there) and driving a taxi ("it could be worse"). He works 16-17 hours a day, seven days a week he tells me. We listen to French songs on the radio and he sings along - and shakes my hand twice at the Newark Airport, where he drops me off.

Upper West Side Divine

Katie and I trip around the Upper West Side first checking out the St John the Divine cathedral at 1047 Amsterdam Ave also known as 113th street. The last time I was here was at some Midnight mass in business school. Or it may have been to watch Nosferatu on a makeshift screen on Hallowe'en, also at Midnight. That was cool.

The cathedral disputes with Liverpool Anglican Cathedral the title of largest Cathedral and Anglican church and fourth largest Christian church in the world. The inside covers 121,000 square feet, spanning a length of 601 ft and height 232 ft. The inside height of the nave is 124 ft. Since it took, like, forever to complete her nickname became St. John the Unfinished.The cathedral, designed in 1888 and begun in 1892, has undergone radical stylistic changes and the interruption of the two World Wars. Originally designed as Byzantine-Romanesque, the plan was changed after 1909 to a Gothic design. After a large fire on December 18, 2001, it was closed for repairs and reopened in November 2008. It remains unfinished, with construction and restoration a continuing process. (Source: Cathedral Church of St John the Divine).
In 2003, the cathedral was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; however the designation unanimously overturned by the New York City Council, some of whose members favored landmark status for the cathedral's entire footprint, rather than just the building. And here we are now, no landmark.

“Greater love hath no man than to attend the Episcopal Church with his wife.”
--Lyndon B. Johnson

Saturday, November 13

Lincoln Center

New York's temp perfect for a stroll along Broadway before my meeting at 1 CPW. The last time I was inside Lincoln was with the NYC Ballet when Stan and Silver treated us and Katie to a special evening while I in graduate school. I was at a stag party in Philadelphia (Filth-adelphia) the night before. Quite a contrast that.

Since it is Thursday cocktail hour people festive and the vibe easy. There are the usual suits and blondes but also an elderly couple - he with hat a cane, she with Hermes bag. A group of school boys joke and rough house with white shirts untucked and ties loose. Taxis race by. Cars honk. A cop looks bored and restaurants still empty. New York still has movie theatres and I pass old favorite : the Lincoln Plaza Cinema (now showing: 'Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spi' and 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest'). I saw a lot of foreign films here, by myself, on Sunday afternoons. It is hard to be Serious when one is 23 no matter what one thinks of one's self at this age.

And here is Lincoln Center: A consortium of civic leaders and others led by, and under the initiative of John D. Rockefeller III, built Lincoln Center as part of the "Lincoln Square Renewal Project" during Robert Moses's program of urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s. Seventeen blocks of ethnic tenement neighborhoods were demolished through eminent domain, forcing out 7,000 families. Respected architects were contacted to design the major buildings on the site, and over the next thirty years the previously blighted area around Lincoln Center became a new cultural hub. Rockefeller was Lincoln Center's inaugural president from 1956 and became its chairman in 1961. He is credited with raising more than half of the $184.5 million in private funds needed to build the complex, including drawing on his own funds; the Rockefeller Brothers Fund also contributed to the project.[1]Avery Fisher Hall, home of the New York Philharmonic in Lincoln Center.The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, home of the New York City Operaand New York City Ballet.The first structure to be completed and occupied as part of this renewal was the Fordham Law School of Fordham University in 1962.

Located between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, from West 60th to West 66th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the Lincoln Center complex was the first gathering of major cultural institutions into a centralized location in an American city. Lincoln Center cultural institutions also make use of facilities located away from the main campus. In 2004 Lincoln Center was expanded through the addition of Jazz at Lincoln Center's newly built facilities (Frederick P. Rose Hall) at the new Time Warner Center, located a few blocks to the south. In March 2006 Lincoln Center launched construction on a major redevelopment plan that will modernize, renovate, and open up the Lincoln Center campus in time for its 50th anniversary celebration in 2009. In March 2006, Lincoln Center launched the 65th Street Project—part of a major redevelopment plan continuing through 2010—to create a new pedestrian promenade designed to improve accessibility and the aesthetics of that area of the campus. Subsequent projects were added which addressed improvements to the main plazas and Columbus Avenue Grand Entrance. Under the direction of the Lincoln Center Development Project, Inc. Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with FXFOWLE Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle Architects provided the design services.
Sources: Rockefeller Philanthropy and Wiki

The People's Palace

I fly into Heathrow and drive like mad to join Nat, Justin, Dafna and Charles and Sonnet for LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip - Christian, you get hug props. The concert at Alexandra Palace in N22 on Muswell Hill, which I know of but never here before. There are panaramic views of London. This city sprawls man.

First opened as “The People’s Palace” in 1873, Alexandra Palace gave the Victorians a great to party. But, alas : sixteen days after it’s opening, the Palace, which had already attracted over 120,000 visitors, was destroyed by a fire in the dome. On 1st May 1875, less than 2 years after the destruction of the original building, a new Palace opened. Covering 7 acres, it was centred on the Great Hall (where we are here) home to the mighty Willis Organ which was driven by two steam engines and vast bellows. After financial problems, an Act of Parliament in 1900 created the Alexandra Palace and Park Trust. The Act required the Trustees to maintain the Palace and Park and make them “available for the free use and recreation of the public forever”. In 1935, the BBC leased the eastern part of the building from which the first public television transmissions were made in 1936. Alexandra Palace was the main transmitting centre for the BBC until 1956, when it was used exclusively for news broadcasts. Six months after the transfer of trusteeship to Haringey Council, on 10th July 1980, the Palace caught fire for the second time. An area comprising the Great Hall, Banqueting Suite, and former roller rink together with the theatre dressing rooms was completely destroyed. Only Palm Court and the area occupied by the BBC escaped damage.
Development and restoration work began soon after and the Palace was re-opened on 17th March 1988. Today it continues as a Charitable Trust. (source: A P website)

LCD Soundsystem amazing - techno disco, pulsating and intelligent. The crowd young and dedicated - they know the lyrics and bounce. No standing around, beer in one hand, other in pocket. The light show zany and takes the noise to another level. A highlight occurs about the middle when a silver disco ball lowered from above and rests for about a moment, speaking to us somehow, before hit by light which refracts and dazzles across the auditorium. I buzz afterwards which turns into a mild ringing the next morning as I head back to the airport.

"Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it now
Say it, say it, say it, say it, say it, say it, say it now
Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it now
Say it, say it, say it, say it, say it, say it, say it now
Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it now"
--Hot Chip, 'Ready For The Floor"

Self Portrait XIX - Mean Reds

At a museum. Katie asks me since when I have become a ham ? and I do not recall. Am I? I know my father a wise-crack when he was younger, which I see more of today than before. I like this about him. I think of a b&w photo at a family Sedar in St Louis where Moe, age 11 maybe, reading and my grandmother Eve laughing; my grandfather looks on approvingly. Eve has her hand on my father's arm indicating "enough !" but her expression the opposite. I lost my humour during those NY post-college gallow years but maybe it comes back now. I am happy, at least, that my sister thinks I am amusing.

This week sees me in Paris, Munich and New York. I hope this will be the end of the travel for some spell. Madeleine blue Wednesday morning and asks me to walk her to school (which otherwise is with our au pair Aneta; Eitan to school by himself. Proudly). Unfortunately I am to the airport and Sonnet has a full day of meetings .. Madeleine tired (a "Rusty" training class keeps her up the night before) and it is raining. Bunk. Sonnet makes a quick call and takes our girl to school stopping at the Victoria for a hot chocolate. We agree : more sleep needed. I remember the same feelings from sixth or seventh grade and was fortunate that Grace always available no matter what she was otherwise doing. I hope Sonnet and I can be the same for Madeleine. As my friend Joe says : "The bigger the kid, the bigger the problem" (Joe's children 26). I don't think Madeleine's sadness a problem but I appreciate Joe's wisdom.

Holly Golightly: "You know those days when you get the mean reds?"
Paul Varjak: "The mean reds, you mean like the blues?"
Holly Golightly: "No. The blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling? "
Paul Varjak: "Sure."
Holly Golightly: "Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that'd make me feel like Tiffany's, then - then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name! "

Monday, November 8

Victory. Sweet Victory

Letter To The PTA and the School Head Teacher

Dear Meat Brigade:

Thank you for your time and hard effort last night.

We may have been pushed to the very edge of our administrative capabilities but thanks to good operations management (thank you Andrew), crack till collection (Terry)+ace delivery (Carl) and some massive throw down capabilities (Simon) we persevered. Another huge shout out goes to Derek's wife who pre-cooked the sausages so nobody sick despite the tremendous pressure to cut corners in the face of Overwhelming Volumes. Safety remains our top priority.

My vote, however, for Man Of The Grill goes to our very own James who, despite two broken ribs and a busted shoulder, flipped paddies like nobody's business. James captures the spirit, indeed the sheer essence, of what we humbly aspire to be : the best darn burger cookers in the SW14.

Yours in faith,
Chief Executive Griller

Sunday, November 7

Burger Flippers Unite - Eitan Wins A Game

Again I spear-head the Guy Fawkes fireworks BBQ which always turns out to be good fun and this year no exception. The forecast for "torrential rain" and "gale force winds" but instead it is a beautifully clear and chilly evening perfect for star gazing. We serve up 250 sausages and 350 char-burnt "beef burgers." Blech. James, second from the left, takes the Gold-Star since he flips with left arm in a sling following a bicycle accident that left him with a couple of broken ribs and a busted shoulder. We rake maybe £1200 for the school.

Eitan's KPR plays Spelthorne for the second time this season on Strathem's home pitch. The game deadlocked at zero with 15 minutes to go when Eitan draws a foul. He lines up for a free-kick about 20 meters from the goal and nails a perfect curving shot that "drops" into the upper left hand corner of the net - gooooaaaaalllllll! The goalkeeper frozen, nothing he can do, while the boys and sidelines silenced. Yep, that is my son. I anxiously hope KPR hold on for the victory so the boy's strike will count. As Juerin, father of Maxime, notes with a chuckle: "He should retire now." I ask Eitan what he was thinking before his kick and he tells me: "David Beckham, when he scored the goal against Greece." Recall Beckham's strike occurred with one-minute left of stoppage time and sent England into the 2002 World Cup final. It curled into the top corner of goal-box. And while, ahem, a bit less dramatic Eitan held a mental picture of what he wished to do and did it. We have taken a few drubbings this season in the higher division but today Coach happy.

Madeleine brings "Rusty" and busies herself on the sidelines keeping warm and the dog under control.


Yes, that time of year again and the kids look at me balefully: "can't I just do my homework?" Madeleine asks. We all chip in and some several hours later the leaves bagged, pond dredged, trees pruned, cracks sealed .. how did we get to November already?

We have a late dinner with Tony and Susan who are moving to Boston earlier than expected. Tony and Susan have found a flat on the sixth floor of a seven-floor pre-war colonial in Back Bay one block from the Boston Common. I have indicated that I plan to make myself comfortable there whenever in town. Tony has been a friend and mentor from early Trailhead Capital and we share several funds together. He is a self-described "recycled entrepreneur" whose first company, Morris Decision Systems, ranked in the US top-ten for growth during the 1980s before being sold. Today he advises tech companies on strategy and development and serves as an advisor and director to a number of private and public companies including Datanomic and Diamond Wood China, a renewable energy company. He has also invested in a number of the most successful Silicon Valley funds during the golden era of venture capital.

It has been some time since we have lost an important friend to re-location. Four or five years ago many of our dearest American expats returned to the US .. 10 years into "an experimental living" seems to be the make-or-break point on becoming "native." So here we are at 14 - go figure. My dreams of the Pacific or Sierras on hold indefinitely but never say never.
Moe once commented: "Not a bad place to be ship wrecked" when I once saw things this way. Now I love London's weather and the excitement of a day trip to a European city, even better if not for work. Or watching Eitan play football and cheering Manchester United or Madeleine's performance class. I am also proud of Sonnet's museum and our friends and so when someone dear departs I am reminded that most things do not last forever.

Saturday, November 6

Errands And Workless

I drag Eitan around on errands - here we are at the lighting store. I am pretty certain this about the last thing he would wish to do but we keep good company anyway. To pass the driving, we hum songs and try to guess the other's choice: Eitan goes with "Purple Rain" and "When Doves Cry" until he gives up with my attempt at Coldplay and Elton John's "Benny and the Jets".

The Times reports that in some parts of Britain one in three households are made of people without jobs. In Liverpool, which tops the table for highest proportion of workless households, all adults in 32% of homes in the city are unemployed. The national average for workless households is 18%. Unemployment during the recession has climbed by 1 million and is forecast to rise again next year to 3 million. But the government has announced that it will slash welfare payments to try to reduce the deficit. People are hurting - will things hold together? Can they ?

At St. Paul's.
Me: "What do you think that giant chimney is for?"
Eitan: "Maybe it's a brewery?"

Eitan, looking at the diagram of an atom: "Dad, I know just looking at this it is something I am never going to understand."

Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
But they're so spaced out, B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they're weird and they're wonderful
Oh Bennie she's really keen
She's got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets
--Bennie And The Jets, by Elton John