Wednesday, December 31

A Lull In The Action

Family Portrait
We enjoy the lull of the holidays, sleeping in, going to yoga and eating cheese and chocolate. Drinking red wine. Reading. But all good things must come to an end and we drop Auntie Katie off at T2. With a hug and a smile she returns to Manhattan.

An add for "Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo" tells us that 2 million bottles sold in Germany last year which makes me wonder: is there a faster way than coffee?

Eitan sells the six antique chairs sitting in the garage on eBay (they were otherwise to the dump). He discovers a new business model and now selling one of my shirts.

Me: "Are you shaving your legs?"
Madeleine: "OMG."

Sonnet: "So what kinds of snacks should I be getting you?"
Eitan: "Cereal."
Sonnet: "Oh? What kind?"
Eitan: "Crave."
Madeleine: "Cheerios."
Sonnet: "Now we're talking."
Eitan: "Wheat-a-bix."
Me, Madeleine:
Sonnet: "He is British."
Me: "Frosted Flakes."
Madeleine: "Lucky Charms. Oh, I love Lucky Charms."
Sonnet: "We are not getting Lucky Charms."
Me: "What's Crave, anyway?"
Eitan: "It's, like, cereal cubes with creamy chocolate inside."
Me: "That's basically candy."
Eitan: "Yes but you can have it for breakfast."

Tuesday, December 30


Camden Market
At Madeleine's request, we spend the day in Camden Town to visit the market, which has been going since 1974 when a small weekly crafts market operated every Sunday near Camden Lock. It eventually developed into a large complex of temporary stalls.  Now it is London's fourth-most popular visitor attraction drawing 100,000 people on the weekend.

Madeleine and Eitan head for the clothing stalls and shoe stores: they each buy a "Vans" sweatshirt (arguing who saw it first) and Eitan gets some fresh Puma's.  They both have an eye for the thing.

Me, wearing a tight cotton turtle neck: "Can you see my nips?"
Madeleine: "Dad!"
Me: "I thought we could talk about anything."
Madeleine: "We can. Just not everything."
Me: "So nips are out. What else?"
Me: "Guys. Can we talk about guys?"
Madeleine: "OMG. This is so embarrassing."
Me: "I'm just trying to understand the boundaries."

Saturday, December 27

Holiday Spirit

Train to Camden
Boxing Day comes and goes. We host a small party for our local friends then wrap up the afternoon in front of a couple of movies: Leon (for me) about an assassin who takes in a 12 year-old Natalie Portman which provides plenty of action and gore, just perfect for the holidays, followed by The Avengers for some more action, though this time mindless. Hollywood's focus on gay comic book heroes has become a bore.

I run the Parkrun 3 mile race in Richmond Park (every Saturday, 9AM) and complete the course in 20:56 or 27 out of 215 runners.  Eitan elects to sleep in, fair enough. The winning time is 17:31 or the difference between me, now, and twenty years.

Photo by Katie.

Thursday, December 25


New puppy slippers and a rooster hat from Auntie Katie.
Christmas Day starts surprisingly late around 10AM. Gone are the days when Eitan and Madeleine up at the crack of dawn pestering us downstairs! Downstairs! Downstairs! Eitan needs his sleep which even trumps presents.

We watch the movie Big which has the the kids' attention, especially the scene where Tom Hanks arrives at the office Christmas party in a white tuxedo then acts like a general weirdo. Eitan: "It's just like a kid acts at a party!"

Madeleine burns a napkin with a table cable, which gets a scolding from Sonnet. Madeleine: "Dad what would happen if I put my iPhone in the fire?"
Me: "You'd be without an iPhone?"
Madeleine: "Would it melt or something?"
Me: "Or it might explode."
Madeleine: "That's what I thought. Just wondering."

Katie: "There are a few things the Brits do better and some things the Americans do better."
Eitan: "I know."
Katie: "The Americans do better teeth. And better skin." 
Katie: "The Brits do better gardens, flowers and tea. And better accents. The Americans have better food."
Me: "I'm not so sure about that."
Katie: "Bangers and mash?"
Me: "I like the French. For food."
Eitan: "The Americans can't play football."
Katie: "We have more land! We have more land!"
Eitan: "You don't have to gloat."

Xmas Eve

Barnes track
We sneak into the Barnes field which used to be not sneaking but now there is a fence and gate which impedes our entry. It has become a Christmas Eve event.  Sonnet prepares gravlax and we have bagels for dinner, as is our custom.

Katie's Op-Ed Project is going great guns. In 2014, she and her colleagues visited seven countries and worked with over 25 universities. She says "Booyah!"

Wednesday, December 24

Des Egouts

Following our visit to the Musee Des Egouts De Paris, also known as the Paris sewer museum, I decide to read Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables."

Paris's first sewer system BTW was built in the 1200's: It consisted of open troughs that ran down the center of each cobblestone road. It was not esp effective and contributed to the spread of the Black Death.

The first underground sewer was built in 1370 beneath the Rue Montmartre, and drained into the Seine. The Sewers were expanded slowly during the next 400 years. However due to a lack of coverage beneath the city and widespread disrepair the sewers remained a problem. ..

Napoleon Bonaparte finally brought the sewers up to speed. In 1805, Bruneseau was commissioned to undertake the building of 182 new miles of sewer:

"The complete visitation of the subterranean sewer system of Paris occupied seven years, from 1805 to 1812. While yet he was performing it, Bruneseau laid out, directed and brought to an end some considerable works; in 1808 he lowered the floor of the Ponceau, and creating new lines everywhere, he extended the sewer... At the same time he disinfected and purified the whole network. (Les Miserables, Jean Valjean; Book II, Ch. 4)"

No other city has a sewer network that that of Paris whose tunnels stretch 2,100 kilometres. It houses, in addition to the drinking and non drinking water mains, telecommunication cables, pneumatic cables and traffic light management cables.  Every day, 1.2 million cubic metres of wastewater have to be collected. Every year, 15,000 cubic metres of solid waste are taken out and disposed of.

Me: "The first line of Les Mis .. ."
Kate: "Which is?"
Me: "In the year 1815 Monseigneur Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of Digne."
Kate: "That's an auspicious start."

More On Hair

Here’s an advertisement by Oxford BioLabs for hair loss:

“Hair loss can be a nightmare. It can make you look less attractive, and also lead to disadvantages within your career and limit you in your partner choice. It can lead to depression, loss of self-confidence and even identity change.”   

Who knew?

Fortunately my hair has got me to where I wish to be: married, a career of some sort, and male.

Eitan has nothing to worry about as his mother’s father had a full head of thick and heavy hair.  I remember Stan's slicked back pompadour from another era - it was very becoming, esp when perched on a bar stool with drink and fag, animated in some story. Indeed another time.

Monday, December 22

Paris Montage

Madeleine finishes "To Kill A Mocking Bird" while Eitan re reads (perhaps my favorite) "Lonesome Dove." Sonnet attacks four back issues of the New Yorker. I work away on the train trying to finish up various emails and projects by the end of the year.
 Notre Dame
Eitan: "Is that Notre dame?"
Me: "You're killing me. That's like being in California and asking what ocean that is."
Me: "You know it's the Pacific, right?"
Eitan: "Is it a church ?"
Me: "Ug."
 The Marais
Madeleine: "How much would you give me if I jumped in the Seine right now?"
 The Pantheon, 5e
Auntie Katie Arrives
At the Natural History Museum in Paris. Madeleine: "Did they have to kill all these animals to get them here?"
Me:  "Yep. Unless they were road kill."
Madeleine: "This is why I have a problem with natural history museums. It's so unfair."
Me: "Not if you're a taxidermist."
M: "Huh ?"
Me: "Stuffing the animals. It's a pretty good living."
M: "Whatever, Dad."
Me: "It just depends on your perspective. As with most things in life."
 Eiffel Tower
Madeleine sees the Eiffel Tower: "Woa! I didn't realise it was right there."
A Normal Interaction

Sunday, December 14

Last Sighting

That sucker is gone.

Blast Off

Johnny pushes the button
We launch the "The Payloader" 2,000 feet into the windy atmosphere never to be seen again. Well worth it.

Madeleine: "Are you going to Paris this week?"
Me: "Zurich tomorrow. But I'll be home for dinner."
Madeleine: "You're going for one day?"
Me: "Yep."
Madeleine: "What's the point of that?"

It's The Oil, Stupid

Williston Basin, North Dakota

A barrel of oil now goes for 57 bucks or a 40% decline since October. Go figure. A price cut of 25% (if maintained) means that global GDP will be roughly 0.5% higher than it would be otherwise. Some countries of course will gain a lot more than that average - In China, a $1 drop per barrel saves the country $2.1bn. So for instance, the world produces just over 90m b/d of oil. At $115 a barrel, that is worth roughly $3.8 trillion a year; at $85, just $2.8 trillion. Any country or group that consumes more than it produces gains from the $1 trillion transfer—importers, most of all.

For the US it will be a mixed bag because America is simultaneously the world’s largest consumer, importer and producer of oil. On balance cheaper oil will help the average Joe but not as much as it used to. Goldman Sachs reckons that cheaper oil and lower interest rates should add about 0.1 percentage points to growth in 2015. But that will be more than offset by a stronger dollar, slower global growth and weaker stockmarkets.

I started my career in First Boston's natural resources group (NRG) before switching to financial services. The former much more interesting.


A Man In His Prime
We spend the weekend with David and Tabitha and their family.

David's consultancy, Macro Advisory Partners, going great guns with 20 clients including big brands, global companies and a few sovereigns. David does the macro and he is a genius: like no one I know he ties the pieces together: politics, risk, financial markets, currencies, geo political issues .. . money.

Holiday Season

Merry, merry
We get into the Xmas spirit with the countdown less than two weeks. Sonnet puts lights up in front of the house and we decorate the Christmas tree.

Dior uses Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" to promote Dior Homme Fragrance starring Robert Pattison. Initially I was WTF but the uncensored version (youtube) is pretty fabulous. Shake for me baby, I want to be your backdoor man.

Friday, December 12

Bang Bang

And it is Friday. Again.

This week it's the Nordics and I find myself in Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm (Nobel prize being awarded) and Helsinki. It is cold and winter and the sun rises at 9AM and sets by 3PM. Strange life for those who live here yet it is also charming with Christmas lights and storefront candles. I force myself to run in the early darkness and watch the cyclers and commuters brace themselves against the weather. No wonder this part of the world drinks more coffee than anywhere else.

Madeleine: "I love The Kooks."
Me: "Yep."
Madeleine: "Have you heard of the song 'Slim Shady?"
Me: "Of course. That's ancient."
Madeleine: "I was so proud of you when I learned that you knew Eminem."
Me: "Have you heard of the song 'Bang Bang?"
Madeleine: "Of course, Dad."
Me: "What do you think she's singing about?"
Madeleine: "I don't know. Anyway I'm not saying."
Me: "So when she says, 'bang! bang! all over me' what does that mean?"
Me: "Back in my day, we only listened to songs about bunny rabbits. And cats."
Madeleine (under her breath): "Yeah, right."
Me: "Bang bang! the cute little rabbit jumped over a tree."
Madeleine: "Can I be excused now?"

The Big Hole

Our triumph (1975)
Todd (the one on the right) and I neighbours and best of friends until we moved house in 1977 (eventually Todd's family headed for Healdsburg where we would visit - we hunted frogs on the dried out Russian River banks or shot arrows and BB guns).

In this particular photo we dug a hole in Todd's backyard. Who knows why? but it was deep, eventually deep enough to sink the two of us. Our summer days filled with the work. We found all sorts of bugs and critters with jaws that we put into jars or made fight.

When not digging we were building tree forts. Or making go carts. Constructing battleships from planks of wood. Or (my favourite) drawing posters of Star Trek episodes on paper dispatched from Todd's father's printer (the paper had removable ridges on the sides for the printer to "bite" the paper and move it through the gears). We built plastic models of the Starship Enterprise and the Klingon B'Moth or Amar and then melted them during epic laser and photon torpedo space battles. Good times for a kid.

Today Todd lives in Chico with his wife and two boys. He is a retired captain and firefighter.

Madeleine: "Can I ask Gracie and Moe to get me a BB gun for Christmas?"
Me: "Absolutely not."
Madeleine: "But why?"
Me: "Because it's a gun."
Madeleine: "But in 'To Kill A Mockingbird' Atticus bought Jim and Scout a riffle."
Me: "Nice reference but it's still no."
Madeleine: "So unfair."

Saturday, December 6

Father Son Jog

Post Richmond Park 5 mile loop
Me: "You're just lying on the floor?" [Dad's note: Madeleine lies on her bedroom floor texting on her iPhone]
Madeleine: "Yep."
Me: "It's kind of unusual, for us adults, to consider lying on the floor."
Madeleine: "Yeah, I guess."
Me: "Is it comfortable?"
Madeleine: "It's OK."
Me: "I bet."

Sonnet: "We slept until 10AM!"
Eitan: "That's nothing."

Sat UR daY

From Friday to Saturday.

On a freezing morning that takes the car 15 minutes to defrost, I take Eitan to Hampton School where the A Squad takes on the Wilson School ("the Wilsons"), who the boys dispatch 2-1. Eitan guards No. 17 who is signed with Reading FC and does a good job of it though he's turned around as often as not. I warm up with a jog in Bushy Park. Meanwhile Sonnet with Madeleine on the other side of town at Swiss Cottage for Madeleine's weekly drama class.

I spend the afternoon raking leaves followed by the last episode of 'True Detective.' Matthew McConaughey my new favorite actor.

Wednesday, December 3

Ancient Dome

Yes, we visit the other worldly Pantheon whose 4,535 metric tons weight of the Roman concrete dome is concentrated on a ring of voussoirs 9.1 metres in diameter that form the oculus, while the downward thrust of the dome is carried by eight barrel valuts in the 6.4 metres thick drum wall into eight piers. The thickness of the dome varies from 6.4 metres at the base of the dome to 1.2 metres around the oculu.

We visit Tazza D'Oro ("Cup of Gold") for a frozen espresso with whipped cream.

Despite all the washi washa regarding immigration, the UN reports that the percentage of "international immigrants" to the world's population is unchanged since 1960 at 3%.  The real story is urban migration as cities will attract 75% of the world's population by 2100.  Would the Romans have agreed? Probably. 

Rome II

Villa Borghese overlooking the gardends
We have a delightful dinner hosted by Amanda (the Jewellery expert), her husband Octavia (the composer), Enrico (the collector), Paolo (the exhibitor), Heidi (the art historian) and Martin (the photographer). All deeply involved in fashion and the gossips that surround their interest.

Amanda's home overlooks the ancient ruins and situated not far from where Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were thought recovered.

Sonnet furiously edits "Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty" - 300 pages and due this week. Since it is the final-final version, "only corkers" are allowed to be flagged.

The kids kept to their routine by the fabulous Klara who works double time getting them to school and their various activities.

Tuesday, December 2


The ancient Tiber River
According to legend, the city of Rome was founded in 753 BC on the banks of the Tiber about 16 miles from the sea at Ostia. The island Isola Tiberina (right side of my photo) in the centre of Rome, between Trastevere and the ancient center, was the site of an important ancient ford and was later bridged. Today it hosts a hospital. Legend says Rome's founders, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, were abandoned on its waters, where they were rescued by the she-wolf, Lupa.

The Tiber was critically important to Roman trade and commerce as ships could reach as far as 60 miles upriver. I've jogged along the bank but it is not particularly pleasant and, in fact, rather dirty with trash and other waste. Rome is a city clean with humanity.

Weirdly the temperatures are in the 70s and it feels like a late summer day despite December. But not much to complain about, really, unless you think the planet is doomed.

Hannibal Tattoo

The tattoo parlour, outside Manuela's apartment, is one of Rome's best.

Bru Re United

Bru and his bike
We spend Sunday with Sonnet's cousin Bru who is a mad genius with near perfect recall applied to art, film, television and anything that grabs him (Bru dropped out and followed the Grateful Dead post high school then applied to Cornell, at 23 or 24, and was accepted). He has lived in Italy over 15 years and his personality somehow suited for here - the gesticulating hand motions, the Italian's love of argument...  Last we saw Bru, he was working in the Vatican and I recall his dark suit and tie, emblazoned with naked erotica, hidden whenever a priest or higher up went by. Oi vey.

Now Bru raises his son, Lucca, a beautiful child interested in football, video games and school.  He is in good hands. I wonder when we will see Bru next? It will likely be a while.


Along with flutes of Champagne and fancy cocktails we and are greeted by a "living art" display of naked women, about 30, covered in pink veils who stair at us directly or distractedly as their pointy breasts and wispy pubic hair draws one's uncomfortable attention. Appetisers are served. Sonnet says hello to Miuccia Prada.

The party filled with major politicos, film stars and (of course) models along with the beautiful people (men) while we are guests of the glamorous Anna Zegna whose company Ermenegildo Zegna is one of the largest fabrics manufactures in the world while producing men's suits for its own label and Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Tom Ford. I am seated next to Francis, Anna's husband, who runs the fabrics business and we compare notes on Tokyo, New York and London and other various places we have been in the last few months. He is elegant in a way somehow unique to Italians - stylish, clever and understated.

"It all started with you."
--Stefano Tonchi, Curator of Belissima, to Sonnet


Coliseum, taken from the taxi. Restoration work funded by Tod's
Sonnet and I to Rome on Saturday to re-connect with a favourite city I have not been to since, gasp, pre-kids without kids (gasp!). Sonnet has been here regularly for her exhibition. Following a day at the National Museum filled with beautiful ancient Roman sculptures, mosaics and frescos, we attend the opening party for "Belissima", an exhibition on .. Italian fashion .. at the Maxxi Museum.