Monday, April 28

Into The Void

vs. Walton Casuals

Disaster strikes as Madeleine's mobile passcode fails and we must reset her phone. She enters a social void, helpless, floating between texts and SMS's that she cannot grasp. Spinning towards, then away, towards, and away from earth, Madeleine breathes to control her emotions, fighting the blackness .. . that.. awaits. her.  

But success: her new account is set up and she is back online. 

Sunday, April 27

C'est Chic

Eitan does some shopping at Primark (Sunglasses by Aneta).

Well, since Sunday, that can only mean Sonnet and Madeleine are at an all-day swimming gala (Madeleine swims 5 races) and Eitan and I at a football match (Sheen Lions 1, Walton Casuals 1; Eitan's winning goal glances off the top goal post, so close, so close).  I leave for Paris in an hour or so.

Saturday, April 26

Talking Heads

What a great album cover.

I revisit the Talking Heads and am stuck on their second album 'More Songs About Buildings and Food' which was released in '78. The songs are bass funky and David Byrnes voice unique but what strikes me is how suited the songs are (or were) for Silicon Valley : intelligent and rarely about love and the usual fall backs.  Instead the band tackles the mundane with heavy insight. They are geeky.

More Songs was not a commercial success - it reached 29th on the Albums - yet Rolling Stones ranked the album 382 on its 500 greatest album of all time.

"A straight line exists between me and the good things.
I have found the line and its direction is known to me.
Absolute trust keeps me going in the right direction.
Any intrusion is met with a heart full of the good thing."
--David Byrne, The Good Thing, 'More Songs About Buildings and Food'

Horse Parade

One never knows what one will find in this city.

The Official Website of the British Monarch tells us that the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace takes place as follow:
February 2014 - even days (ie 2, 4, 6, etc.)
March 2014 - even days (2, 4, 6, etc.) PLUS 31 March
April 2014 - every day
May 2014 - every day
June 2014 - every day

We are at the VA Friday evening with friends and it is quite the scene: attractive crowd, bar and DJ spinning electronic Buddha loud enough to be uncomfortable. In short, perfect date venue for the young and broke. Fridays the museum open until late.

Thursday, April 24

Let's Do The Time Warp Again

At Hampton School

We re enter the work-school time warp. 

Our return to the UK not without incident as the car breaks down at Bayeaux (The Bayeux Tapestry btw one of the supreme achievements of the Norman Romanesque and tells the story of Norman's conquest of England in 1070. We check it out) on Easter Monday, everything deserted. Thanks to Sonnet's cool hand, we find a 24/7 mechanic who is also the mayor of his small village Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes. So we are in good hands. One day later we are on our way. All's well that ends well.

I am reminded of a stormy winter visit to the Sierras and Moe drops the car key in a snow pack alongside my parents' house. Somehow, at Midnight, we find a local who is able to match the car and the key (which has never been found despite 25 years looking). 

Sunday, April 20


The neighboring church bells go bonkers at 10AM.

Meanwhile, the kids under strict guidance : two hours of revision a day, which they are allowed to break into two blocks of one hour. Eitan has an agenda to the half-hour focused on the sciences : he does algebra and geometry in maths, light refractions in physics and the heart/ circulation for biology (he draws a heart, full scale, which we discuss over steak, medium rare).

Madeleine's recent school card includes all 2s and 1s (on a scale of 1-4) which was her stated objective upon entering Emanuel.  My closet nerd.

In the UK, the only school data that counts are the GSCEs, a standardised exam taken around 10th grade covering the first three or four years of secondary school, and the A levels at the end of secondary school, securing one's spot in university. The Brits, I observe, like most, cram. They find it a bit potty to study in between.

Saturday, April 19


We are staying in a property that dates to the 12th century and formally a monastery - one room, the chapel, has traces of ancient fresco's. Over the centuries, the house has been expanded and modernised. Somewhat. The stone walls are 61 cm thick for the oldest sections; I throw logs into a huge fireplace and let her roar.

Madeleine: "Can we get a cow for the backyard?"
Me: "A cow?"
Madeleine: "It would eat all the grass and spread its lovely fertiliser."
Me: "Not going to happen."

Me: "How about visiting Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel?"
Madeleine: "What?! There's a church right next to us!"
Me: "It's something I'd like to see."
Madeleine, grumbling: "There goes the fun from the rest of the day."

Me: "Let's go to the D-Day Airborne Museum in St Maire Eglise."
Eitan, Madeline: "No! No!"
Me: "Come on, it's not that bad."
Madeleine: "Yeah, for you."
Me: "If you guys aren't excited by a bunch of men fighting for the existence of the free world then I don't know what."
Eitan: "We learn about it in school, anyway."
Me: "So?"
Eitan: "It's not like it's new or something."

Friday, April 18

Omaha Beach Post D-Day

The invasion of Normandy saw 153k Allied troops land on a 50-mile stretch of beach (Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword) delivered by 5,400 ships and landing craft, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes. The US suffered 6,603 casualties including 1,465 killed (far fewer than expected).

Madeleine at the Friday market in Vologne: "Can we buy those crabs and lobsters and set them free in the ocean ?"
Me: "No way."
Madeleine: "Come on, Dad, you'll be a hero to these sea creatures."
Me: "Not going to happen."

Omaha Beach

D Day, June 6, 1944
We are at Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery and it is comforting to be an American on American soil (gifted "in perpetuity" by the French) and surrounded by Americans (talking about breakfast). There is a new visiting center (new since I was last here) that offers a shallow but enjoyable overview of events from Sept 3, 1939, when Britain and France declared war on Germany until D-Day. Most moving are personal recordings from the men in the infantry, on the ground, in the bombers, dropped by parachute and charging the beach.

Sadly no veterans.

Thursday, April 17


Madeleine: "What would take longer? Moving a pile of sand ten meters one grain at a time. Or digging a hole through a mountain using a needle. Or moving a well using a pipette?"
Me: "It's the age old question."
Eitan: "Definitely the mountain. That is like a lifetime."
Sonnet: "That's like two lifetimes."
Madeleine: "I think it would be quickest to move the well, and the mountain the longest."
Madeleine: "And the sand a pain in the butt."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "What if you lose the sand or something ?"
Me: "Makes sense."

Le Foot

And where would Eitan be without a football ?

Aneta reports on the pets: "Rusty is great! Likes to bark until 2AM almost every night. Turtle and fish is luckily still alive too."

Endless Beach

Cap de Carteret

Today we visit Carteret, on the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula, which has a salty, Atlantic feel. Flat sands stretch seven miles from Cap de Carteret, where we are, to Point Rozel or as far as the eye can see. The beach is wild and nameless (and protected), backed by miles of dunes, empty but for clouds of terns and a handful of walkers. It is almost our own.

Sonnet: "When I was your age, I had eight teeth pulled." [Dad's note: Sonnet had poor teeth]
Madeleine: "That must have hurt. " 
Sonnet: "I had lots of painkillers."
Madeleine: "I hate it when people collect old teeth."
Me: "They really do that?"
Madeleine: "Yes. I've seen it."
Me: "Well, you'll never guess what Gracie keeps. Above the fireplace."
Madeleine: "What ?"
Me: "Bateson." [Dad's note: Bateson was the beloved family dog, esp. loved by Grace]
Madeleine: "What!? I thought he was dead!"
Me: "His ashes."
Madeleine: "Oh. Aren't their two of them? Urns, I mean ?" 
Me: "And who do you think is in the other one?"
Madeleine: Eitan, Sonnet:
Me: "Your great Grandmother!"
Madeleine: "Oh My God!"
Sonnet: "Don't do that to the kids, really."
Madeleine: "Yeah. You can stop laughing Dad."

Wednesday, April 16

Utah Beach

bombs away

We visit Utah Beach, which was the code name for the right flank of the Allied landing beaches on D Day, 6 June 1944 - this is the 60th anniversary year. Utah was added late in the planning and only when more landing craft became available - Ike coveted the deep water ports at nearby Cherbourg which could take supply ships.

The non descript sandy beach is narrow unless the tide out, which adds 1 km (my estimate).  On a sunny peaceful day, like today, it is hard to imagine machines moving and men fighting for their lives.

The remembrances are simple with several statues and a plaque or two; a French and American flag are at full mast. There is a simple museum (groans from the Shakespeares).  Sadly missing are the Veterans. When Tim and I in Normandy 12 years ago we met a bunch of them, now many or most are gone.

"Plans are nothing; planning is everything."
--Dwight D Eisenhower

Tuesday, April 15

The Cows Come Home

Eitan: "And we're off for another Orenstein family vacation."

Somewhere In Normandy

Sonnet: "I remember a vacation in Ireland with the Orenstein family. Grace planned it for a year, and we went all around, staying in many beautiful places."
Me: "That was a fun trip . .. "
Sonnet: "My esteem for the Orensteins went up when we got a flat tire and - lickety split - Grace, Katie and Jeff got out and fixed it in 15 minutes. My family would have waited 3 hours for AAA."
Madeleine: "You fixed the tire?"
Me: "We did. We had a spare."
Madeleine: "What would happen if two tires went flat and you didn't have a spare ?"
Me: "You'd be out of luck."
Madeleine: "How about if the non-driving tires went out?"
Me: "You mean on a two wheel drive?"
Madeleine: "Yeah. Could you still drive the car?"
Me: "Probably not."
Madeleine: "How about only one then ?"
Me: "Well, the car might tilt a bit. It would be pretty uncomfortable if you were sitting in the back seat."
Madeleine: "So you could do it then."
Me: "If a four-wheel car, then no. If a three wheel car - yes."
Madeleine: "Thought so."

Monday, April 14

Astorg Partners

Dinner at the musée Jacquemart André

School's Out

Madeleine and Zara at Kew Gardens.

Me: "'The Women In Black' is not scary." [Dad's note: Eitan thinks the movie "The Woman In Black" is a scary movie.]
Eitan: "Well it's scarier than Psycho. Or Jaws."
Me: "Yeah, that's because you watched Jaws in the living room and not in the ocean."
Madeleine: "What?! You watched Jaws in the ocean?"
Eitan: "It wasn't scary."

Sunday, April 13


Me and Aneta

So I meet President Sarkozy last week in Paris and he is remarkable. Sure, one expects the charisma, but Sarkozy able to site history inter-twined with the leaders and events he knows or has influenced. Further, he is direct in his comments, no wishy washy here : Putin and Russia humiliated in the 20th Century and Sochi a slight too far : the Ukraine crisis a total misunderstanding of history.  Crimea is Russian, let them have it. The euro will last, the alternative is war, even if Europe's growth anaemic .. . France will collapse before she becomes better, perhaps social upheaval.

Plus the guy loves California.

What's not to like ?

And The Mini Marathon

Birdcage walk

Eitan runs a hard race placing somewhere in the top 30 (my estimate). His unofficial time around 17:30 for three miles.

Wilson Kipsang of Kenya wins the men's race in 2:04.29 (London course record) and Edna Kiplagat, also of Kenya, the women's in 2:20.21.

Mo finishes in at 2:08.20 - not a bad debut - but he says moments after ward interviewed by the BBC (barely in a sweat): "Bit of a disappointment. But you try new things. Live and learn." Just another day at the office.

London Marathon

Today is Marathon Day and Eitan and Zac line up for the "London Mini Marathon" which is the last three miles of the long race.  The boy picked up in Twickenham, 6:30AM sharp, and delivered to the start-line with Team Richmond.  His goal to be in the top 10.

Today's race includes Kenya's Wilson Kipsang, the marathon world record-holder, Ugandan world and Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich, defending London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede, of Ethiopia, and Kenyan Emmanuel Mutai, the London course record-holder and our very own beloved Mo Farah.

Paris In Springtime


I'm in Paris for the season's change and it is lovely.

Astorg's annual meeting takes place at some marvelous places: the Automobile Club on the place de la Concorde (Wednesday) followed by a gala dinner at musée Jacquemart André; Musée des Arts Décoratifs overlooking jardin tuileries and the sun takers  (Thursday) then dinner at la Tour d’Argent offering a magnificent view of Notre Dame from five stories up. Splendid.

And what have I missed at home? Madeleine: "Nothing."

"When spring comes to Paris the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise."
--Henry Miller from 'Tropic of Capricorn"

Tuesday, April 8


Eitan, 200m freestyle

Following five weekends of competing at Guildford and Crystal Palace in individual and relay events, WSC finish 3rd in the medals and 5th in Tinlin Trophy.  Not bad for a reasonably small club (ca 150 swimmers) and achieved by just over 30 swimmers competing at the Championships.  The team scoops 31 medals including Eitan's bronze in the 200m fly.  The boy also set PBs in the butterfly and freestyle events.

Monday, April 7


At the NPG

We join Tab and David who host the Sapersteins in Bath.  Now I am in Paris.  Eitan up at 4:30AM for a class trip to Barcelona, where he will be until Thursday.

Madeleine organising afternoons with her friends.

Peaches is dead.

"Peaches has died. We are beyond pain. She was the wildest, funniest, cleverest, wittiest and the most bonkers of all of us. Writing 'was' destroys me afresh."

--Bob Geldof

Saturday, April 5

Me And Andy Warhol

Photo by David Bailey

And so it is Friday, an exhausting exhilarating week for Sonnet whom I and we could not be more proud of.

Stan, Aneta and I meet Jeanine, Sunny and Leon+Westlee for lunch at the Portrait Gallery Restaurant.

Leon continues to take beautiful photographs using swaths of light; his studio set up in Oakland while he keeps a foot in Paris.

Beforehand, Guy and I have lunch with Diana, a sworn progressive who was heavily involved in Obama's first campaign and on the Council of the Holocaust Memorial in Washington DC.  She is a force of nature, too, and perfectly matched with Guy on politics, insider connections and a desire to make things better.

Friday, April 4

Pre Show

The private viewing and reception fills the museum with the great and the good. Stan watches over the Shakespeares who mill about perfectly awkward, the little dears. They blitz the exhibition in two minutes and ready to split at 9PM.  We stay until the end then dinner with Spencer and Alex. Top evening.

The Sapersteins arrive from Northern California and we are honoured that they are with us. Guy wears Armani.

Thursday, April 3

On The Board

Madeleine, Aneta and I sit around watching Modern Family and eating ice cream (thank you, Aneta). Before dinner. Madeleine has seen every episode of Modern Family, too - she says, 'more than a hundred ' - and never gets bored (today the first day of Easter Break so plenty of time to go comatose)

Me: "Do you have any gay friends?"
Aneta: "Like five of them."
Me: Men or women?"
Aneta: "Men."
Me: "Cool, every girl should have a gay friend. Sonnet does. Madeleine do you have one?"
Madeleine: "Huh?"
Me: "A gay friend. Do you have one ?"
Madeleine: "No."
Me: "How would you know?"
Madeleine: "I have no idea."
Me: "Right answer. Let's keep it that way."

Man In The Grey Flannel Suit


Me: "What did you think of mom's show ?"
Madeleine: "Great."
Me: "Anything else?"
Madeleine: "it was amazing."
Madeleine: "It was really creative and imaginative and a lot of thought went into it."
Madeleine: "And I liked the Vespa" [Dad's note: a Vespa 125 from 1949 on display].
Me: "What was your favourite?"
Madeleine: "The red dress with the big front bow."
Me: "Good one."

Red Dresss

Germana Marucelli, 1950

I imagine this dress sashaying along a bombed out block in Milan, post Second World War, suggesting the Italy's first spring in ten years.


Eva Herzigová
Valentino at our table and barely says a word. His partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, however, is charming and smooth, with powdered white hair and an orange tan. His style impeccable and he glides thru the crowd - there's Liz Hurley and over there Naomi Cambell. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are at the next table while the Italian PM, Matteo Renzi, is in the house (he, with entourage; Sonnet with him for 45 minutes).

Sonnet in Versace.

The Glamour Of Italian Fashion

Sonnet's exhibition opens Tuesday with a bang and the red carpet, leading us to the Raphael cartoon gallery and the patron's dinner (Sonnet in sponsor Bulgari jewelry on loan). Yesterday it is a private viewing and cocktail reception underneath the Chihuly.  And today it goes public.

It is a week long party. Or wedding.  In between Sonnet is interviewed by the press, shows various designers, funders and dignitaries around the exhibition, and generally holds it together.

We are surrounded by friends and family who have gone out of their way to support our wonderful curator.

Me: "Are you going to join us at the museum Friday?"
Madeline: "No way.'
Me: "I thought you were a cultured little dude."
Madeleine: "The last thing a kid wants to do is go to a museum."
Sonnet: "It pains me to hear that."
Madeleine: "None of my friends would be caught dead at a museum."
Me: "What do you guys like to do for fun anyway?"
Madeleine: "We like to go places and eat frozen yogurt and be crazy."
Me: "Sounds fun."
Madeleine: "That's just the way it is, Dad."

Tuesday, April 1

Golden Couple


Spencer and Alex in town for Sonnet's exhibition which is happening this week. We are friends from business school and spent the first two years in London together.  Back then, Friday evening cocktails de rigeuer.  Now they are in San Francisco, enjoying the good life, and raising their three fabulous children.

This is my 3,800 blog.

"It is to the curator’s credit that the exhibition can raise questions for the fashion cognoscenti about the state of the Italian industry, while allowing a more general audience to appreciate La Bella Figura."

--Suzy Menkes in the NYT on Sonnet's show