Monday, December 30

Movie Night

Oxo Tower

Grace picks a movie, which she has brought from California: "The Wind And The Lion".
Sonnet: "Will you go get your son?" [Dad's note: Eitan is watching "Made in Chelsea"]
Madeleine: "Is it in black and white?"
Me: "It's about old people. The average age is over 50" [Madeleine looks at me in horror]
Grace: "Oh cut it out. Don't let your father tease you like that."
Me: "Put the movie in and let's get this thing over with."
Sonnet: "I had a dream of Sean Connery last night." [Dad's note: the movie stars Sean Connery.]
Grace: "That's nice. Was it a good dream?"
Moe: "Great opening scene, Grace" [Dad's note: Moe lies on the couch where he will fall asleep]
Katie reads a book: "There was no Internet in 1904" [The movie takes place in 1904]
Grace: "Just watch the movie."

Gracie's Book

My mother's book, "Think About It! Reflective Communication Skills for Early Care and Education Professionals," is published by Minuteman Press and we could not be more delighted and proud of her.

Katie and I take our parents to Terminal 5 where they return to Berkeley after a week that flies by too quickly.

Saturday, December 28

Sushi. It's What's For Dinner

Hu-waaaaaa town

Madeleine prepares sushi, something planned for over a month, and so we head to New Malden where there is an Asian center which strangely combines Korea, China and Japan which is a lot of territory to cover, if you ask me.  Madeleine picks the fish, including tuna and salmon, octopus and a few other things I don't recognise.

I stumble across some Sriracha Super Hot Chili Sauce which Roger and I discovered in college and put on bologna sandwiches.  We called it "Hu-waaaa" sauce while making Asian-faces which I agree is pretty immature and Roger did merry Greta so I think we are off the hook.

A Lull In The Action

Katie samples an avacado

Katie, Eitan and I run a 5k in Bushy Park so the boy can qualify for the London mini-marathon in April.  The only thing worse than running a race is running a race out of shape.  The dog drags me across the finish line (Rusty in first place, for dogs). Moe and Grace cheer us on.

Eitan crosses in 19:01, which would be enough to qualify him but, reading the fine print, the race must be be completed between 4 Jan and 22 Feb, so he will have to do it again.

Thursday, December 26

Post Xmas

The Lawyer

Me: "Madeleine what do you say about Christmas?"
Madeleine shrugs: "I don't know."
Me: "That all?"
Madeleine: "Where's your Panasonic thing?" [Dad's note: Dad got a camcorder]
Me: "It's charging."
Madeleine: "What are you going to use it for?"
Me: "Do you really need to ask?"
Madeleine rolls her eyes.
Me: "How about if you dance around like a nut cracker?"
Madeleine: "I'm good."

Wednesday, December 25

A Merry Rusty Christmas

What would the fox say?

Tuesday, December 24

Christmas Cracker

Katie: "What are some things Norway is known for?"
Me: "Gravlox."
Moe: "Fjords."
Grace: "Reindeer!"
Katie: "Yep. What else?"
Katie: "Give up? Santa Claus, of course."
Madeleine: "I thought he was from Greece."
Kate: "Dad, how many countries have you been to?"
Moe: "I don't know, 30 maybe ?"
Me: "Greece?"
Eitan: "I've been to America. And England, and Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Greece.  And Wales."
Me: "Wales doesn't count."
Grace: "Wales isn't a country ?"
Me: "I didn't say that. Only that it doesn't count."
Madeleine: "That's where we got Rusty."
Grace: "So it counts for something."

Xmas Eve

Barnes track

I get the kids (the hell out of) the house for some exercise.  Eitan runs a mile time trial in 5:50.

Madeleine: "Can we park here Dad? Is it legal ?"
Eitan: "It's not allowed."
Madeleine: "Are we allowed on to the field?"
Me: "Just squeeze through the gate here, no problem."
Eitan: "We really aren't supposed to be doing this."
Me: "We're not robbing a bank, for Pete's sake."
Madeleine: "I am not going to jail on Christmas Eve."
Me: "No one is going to jail. We're just going to run a few laps around the track."
Eitan: "Come on, Madeleine, no one's going to catch us."
Me: "That's the spirit."

Checkered Shirts

We are in town for a play then an early dinner at Cecconi's where I sit next to Gracie and we drink martinis (mine: vodka, dry, with a twist; hers: gin, dirty with olives.  My grandfather George was also a gin man - in the Midwest, this is old school proper).  Madeleine looks at me bemused.

From here, it is home to watch a scary movie, "The Women in Black," which Eitan has been pestering me about for weeks (me: "is she really in black? Is she?"), which is discussed the next day over the breakfast counter since it is the creepiest movie ever, according to Eitan (Dad's correction: Eitan says it is not, actually, the creepiest movie ever, but "I have not seen many creepy movies")

Me: "This dog doesn't know the half of it."
Rusty: "Woof."

Sunday, December 22

And She's Off

Aneta returns to Czech.

At least Aneta is flying. When she arrived it was by bus - 18 hours.

I never really did the Greyhound in those younger years. Oh, sure, sometimes I took a bus from NY's Port Authority to Providence, post college, to see my post-college girlfriend, but mostly it was the train when on the Eastern Seaboard.  By Jr year I had a car (three, in fact) so the indignities of a "Silverside" mostly lost on me.  Still, it is hard to beat £20.60 to Prague one-way.

Me And The Boy

We sit around the living room watching "The First Great Train Robbery", one of my mom's favourites, which is somehow appropriate as Ronnie Biggs died last week (Biggs involved in The Great Train Robbery of '63).  A best thing about the movie is the rendition of the Victorian period - costumes, accents and all - a good hanging, too (crowd chants: "Oh, my, someone's gonna die"which is pretty creepy stuff).

We are with the Clarks and welcome Michael home from Annapolis.  He wears his 'choker' and takes q & a , composed and secure that boot camp behind him and he can focus on the academics, where he excels.

Moe explains the legal actions surrounding gay marriage in the US. The fight is not over.

Me: "Do you think I'm weird ?"

Madeleine: "Yes but in a good way."

Saturday, December 21

Self Portrait XXXIV


Madeleine and I pick up Grace and Moe, who arrive following a delayed flight and a long journey.  We are delighted that they are with us. Katie arrives Monday.

Eitan has been begging to go to Primark - "a room full of cheap clothes" he enthuses - so this afternoon we are there.  Madeleine and I bored within minutes while Eitan checks out the various styles. I handle a pair of shiny pointy boots - could they be dress shoes ? - while Eitan goes for a "kind of cool geeky" shirt and "pretty fly" jacket. Score.

Una Vez Más

The boy at 13. I could not be more proud of him.

The Malaga airport is absurd : recently built and modern, size of a military hanger, too big for retail and barely half a day of flights mostly from the low cost airlines.  This is where Spain spent its borrowings. Following a week of extraordinary food we break down and hit Burger King (which is worth the price just to hear the Spanish cashier pronounce 'whopper')

Puente Viejo

The Old Bridge

We visit Ronda where Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles spent many summers in the old town quarter "La Ciudad." Hemingway famously loved the bull-fighting machismo. Eitan and I check out the Old Bridge which was built from 1751 to 1793 and is 120 metres above the canyon floor.

The Guadavalin  River runs through the city, dividing it in two and carving out the steep, 100 plus meters deep El Tajo canyon upon which the city perches. Eitan and I scale the mountain wall then go for a five mile run alongside the river. Magic.

Eitan: "That's not very funny, Dad."
Eitan: "You like to laugh at your own jokes, don't you?"
Me: "Sometimes I laugh because you don't get my jokes."
Me: "Or because they make you laugh. Or because I find them funny."
Me: "Aren't you happy that I laugh all the time?"
Eitan gives me a weird look.


Picasso Museum

Eitan hates my stretching which I often do from the sidelines of the football pitch or some other equally humiliating place. The airport, for instance.  At least now he rolls with it.

Me: "I haven't had a bath in two days."
Eitan: "That's nothing."


Day 1 finds us on a train, 8AM, to Alora, a typical pueblo blanco, a whitewashed village nestled between three rocky spurs topped by the ruins of a castle built by the Phoenicians. The train station empty accept for a lonely cafe where the proprietor informs us, using gestures: go up.

A zig zagging trail leads us up the hillside and there is Alora which looks like a favela and Eitan and I wonder: What the hell? Once inside the village, however, we find a hustle-bustle and sparkly shine - the town center filled with the well-dressed elderly people and the young, presumably unemployed, what do they do? one must wonder.  And orange trees filled with fruit.

Our random walk takes us to an olive grove underneath a serious mountain topped with a cross that overlooks  us and the valley beneath.

We return to the station for a perfect tray of anchovies, cured meats and coffee. A table of men play cards.



The boy and I arrive in Malaga for a week of bonding and goofing.   Here, Eitan says, "We treck up to the rooftop pool and shiver, there, before we are brave enough to jump in." [Dad's note: the hotel pool is unheated] "I get shivers for the rest of the night."

From there we search for tapas, found in abundance.  I have a plate of fried sardines while Eitan devours the local salamies.  Our discussion covers college, clothes and jobs.

Monday, December 16


Eitan and I off to Spain. He is a nice accoutrement, better than any pair of trainers, really.  A fabulous kid.

Sunday, December 15

Pre Game

Eitan prepares for Kew Association, which the Lions win 2-1 (Eitan scores the first goal on a PK).  The match notable for the sidelines referee who clearly cheats on the off-side calls and is over-ruled by the on-field ref on the final, decisive goal.  The sidelines in an uproar.

Madeleine: "There are several kids in my year who are 'going out.' "
Sonnet: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "What does that mean, anyway, 'going out' ? Are they going to Nando's or something ? [Dad's note: Nando's is a chicken chain in the UK]
Sonnet: "Yes, maybe."
Madeleine: "It's not like they have anything to talk about that they can't say at school."
Sonnet: "Maybe that's not the point."
Madeleine: "Yeah, I guess."

Rusty & Aneta


Sonnet submits the final edits to her book, Italian Fashion, which will accompany her exhibition and, voilà, there is a palpable sense of relief ( for all of us, really). Now she has to make labels for the show's 300 items.

Eitan tunes me on to "Made In Chelsea" about a bunch of post-college rich twats who date and gossip and partner swap, always looking fabulous - such posh accents! - and working their parents' trust fund. At least in Melrose Place the characters, like, worked.

Madeleine wanders into the living room as Sonnet and I watch "Mad Men."
Madeleine: "That man looks just like you."
Me: "You mean the old guy with white hair?"
Madeleine: "No, the other one." [Dad's note: Madeleine indicates Don Draper]
Me: "Well that is about the nicest complement I've received in a long time."

Wednesday, December 11



I am at a fancy dinner arranged by SAP and find myself in a champagne room filled in Mayfair with middle-aged dudes from the back-office operations of their various impressive large firms. [Dad's note: SAP is the world leader in the market of enterprise applications for software and software-related services].

I do a lap, panic, and head for the door where a friendly SAP Vice President offers to introduce me to the President. It is clear that I have nothing to contribute to the SAP conversation, nor is this fellow going to sell me some enterprise software. I make my excuses and split before the appetiser.

London moves into the Xmas zone and Christmas carollers sing at Green Park.  Oxford and Regent Sts draped in light and the shop windows polished, open for business - extended hours.  The kids term ends Friday.

Sunday, December 8

Gal Play

Madeleine and Molly see the latest 'Hunger Games' installation followed by a sleep-over.  I drive Madeleine nuts by referring to Katniss as 'catnip' on three or four occassions.  I can't help myself, really.

A water pipe bursts under the front-yard concrete five weeks after I take on plumbing and drainage insurance and one week after it is 'active'.  The premium: £1 per month so this may be the best investment I have ever made. In fact, no doubt about it.

Rake Work

20 bags

I spend the day in the backyard. Once, against their wills, the kids helped but no more : they are too busy with sport, homework, social ..  rest.  Moe and Grace cut me and Katie a break from chores at about this age so I get it. 

Eitan wanders into kitchen to find snack.
Me: "What do you think about Nelson Mandela's death?"
Eitan: "I'm not that upset I guess."
Me: "Do you know what Mandela was famous for?"
Eitan: "He was President."
Me: "Of what?"
Eitan: "Africa."
Me: "Not all of Africa. What part?"
Eitan: "South Africa."
Me: "What else do you know about him?"
Eitan: "He fought for his rights."
Me: "Everyone's rights. Blacks and all people."
Eitan exits kitchen, no snack.

Madeleine: "You know how I'm making that thing for you at school for Christmas that you are not supposed to know about ?"
Me: "Ummm . ."
Madeleine: "Well our teacher used it as an example and dropped in acid." [Dad's note: Madeleine makes things in her 'design technology' class]
Madeleine: "It took the whole class to get it out."
Me: "Sounds promising."
Madeleine: "I was really upset, Dad. Everybody was watching."
Me: "I bet."
Madeleine: "But the teacher was able to finally get it."
Me: "I can't wait for Christmas."

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
--Nelson Mandela

Thursday, December 5

And She Was

Me: "Do you think Rusty prefers breakfast or dinner ?"
Me: "These are important questions."

Madeleine: "But, Dad , I have to do my homework."
Me: "Too bad. Dishes."
Madeleine: "But it's math!"
I help Madeleine do the dishes; afterwards she jumps on her macbook.
Me: "I thought you had homework."
Madeleine: "I do."
Me: "And?"
Madeleine: "It's not due tomorrow."

Monday, December 2

Final Bend

Final photo

Madeleine's recent instructions on how to feed Erik and Nelson (the turtles):
"Turn light for turtles on and off in morning and night.
Feed them either shrimp or blood worms.
Blood worms go in a small box, ie, the yellow box on counter.
Take turtles and put them in box.
Put them back in tank when done.
Blood worms are in BIG freezer.
Feed every day."

Seems reasonable. I am sure that I will be doing this long after Madeleine has flown the coop.

Sunday, December 1

Outside Lane

Poolside pre race

Sunday morning, 6:30 AM, Madeleine and I up for the Haslemere gala in deepest Surrey. We pick up Zara and Sonnet calls Zara's mom beforehand to make sure they are awake (their request). I watch Madeleine crank out the 200m freestyle (2:55) and 50m crawl (35.15).

Eitan chooses football over swimming (though signed up for Haslemere) and the Sheen Lions take on the CB Hounslow United Blues on the home pitch on a beautiful cold day. Sonnet reports "thrilling" as the Lions up 1-nil then down 2-1 in the late second half. Eitan takes a corner which bounces off the defence giving him a second shot, which he puts into the net with a wedge shot "that drops" (he says). The Lions go on to win, 3-2, putting them in a 5-way time for 2nd place in the Premiere division.

Sonnet to Rome for the exhibition.