Saturday, January 31


Eitan is Caesar
Eitan enjoys school drama and may sit the drama exam for GCSEs next year. Sonnet and I think he would enjoy it but for now his third elective is French. He has stage presence.

I return to London on the over-nighter saying good-bye to Thierry who is on his way to Paris then Milan for the weekend. We cover a lot of ground, he and I. My flight a short five hours putting me into T5 Friday morning 4:50AM and dark, dark, dark. I arrive home to a few groggy hugs and Sonnet in action: she keeps a sharp schedule. Soon it is just me and the dog so I head for work.

Madeleine (6:25AM): "Dad, it's you."

Friday, January 30

Mobius Strip

Eric gleefully describes his scarf which is also a mobius strip which has a mathematical property of having a non-orientable surface: "You can splice two together and get a klein bottle" he points out. (A klein bottle, dear reader, is a two-dimensional manifold against which a system for determining a normal vector cannot be consistently defined). Like father, like son.

Eric and I have breakfast and catch each other up on various activities: Ben is somehow a Jr in college and contemplating an engineering PhD; Jonah is committed to drama and Isabel is evolving. It's about growing up.

Cricket Rocketeers

Here is another classic from Todd - us launching "The Payloader" which had a clear compartment where Todd and I stuffed bugs and other things. It's the same rocket I recently fired with Johnny.  Note the hand crafted launch pad. The photo taken in 1978 in the parking lot of Golden Gate Fields race track. It was a family affair - Katie and Leslie cower behind the Dodge Swinger.

Power Tower

Central Park
The Solow Building at 9 West 57 Street is buyout central with Apollo, Silver Lake and Highland Capital located here. On the 42nd top floor, where my meeting takes place, is the grand daddy of them all: Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts Co which has completed $400 billion of deal making since the 70s. This is the view when you're king of the hill.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the London Marathon, a distance I never conquered nor will ever run again. In 1998, at my running prime, I finished London in 3:11 yet had to walk the last two miles. Paula Radcliffe, who I have followed since 1997 when I saw her win a winter road-race bobbing her head all the way, will make the London Marathon her last competitive race come April.

Tuesday, January 27

New York Shuts Down

Penn Station
"The Storm Of The Century" arrives on the Eastern Seaboard just in time to cancel a bunch of meetings that have taken several months to set up. Oh well, snow day ! Mayor de Blasio tells us to stay inside, orders all cars off the street from 11PM (that's never happened before) and closes the subway for only the 3rd time in the city's history (interestingly Sonnet and I in Manhattan the first time January 8, 1996). Schools shut and flights cancelled. New York settles in for a good old time.

During the Blizzard of 1996, Sonnet and I walked from our Riverside Drive apartment to the newly opened gourmet Fairway grocery store beneath the Riverside Drive overpass. Not a soul to be seen. We bought a bunch of live lobsters and white wine and walked home through two feet of snow for a saintly evening.

One ton of street salt is $58, up 30% from last year.

Monday, January 26


Harlem Ride
Katie and I head to Harlem for brunch at celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson's comfort food joint "The Red Rooster" (we have Caribbean bacon, stewed beans, haitian piklitz and egg. Plus collard greens and grits, of course) followed by a walk along Lenox Avenue to Central Park. A large group of cyclists catch our attention - a memorial, we are told.

Katie takes a photo of a women's clothing shop which advertises "real clothes for real sizes" only to be accosted by the owner who asks Katie to erase the image. I think uh-oh but instead Katie has a long talk with Sister Sylvia who is angered by out-of-towners snapping photos and exploiting Harlem. She notes a recent documentary shot in her neighbourhood and showing in Paris without the permission of those filmed. She and Katie bond and I am very impressed as my instinct would have been just about the opposite to Katie's.


I wake up early Sunday in Manhattan and, feeling disoriented from jet lag and lack of sleep, do what I always do in these circumstances: put on my running shoes and hit the road. In this case, it is a short hop from the Four Seasons to Central Park where I am greeted by 1000s of runners completing a half-marathon. I love the company which inspires me to go for a full loop, which passes in a New York minute. This is my second favourites place to run after Tilden Park.

From the Guggenheim website (abbreviated):
In June 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright received a letter from Hilla Rebay, the art advisor to Solomon R. Guggenheim, asking the architect to design a new building to house Guggenheim's four-year-old Museum of Non-Objective Painting. The project evolved into a complex struggle pitting the architect against his clients, city officials, the art world, and public opinion. Both Guggenheim and Wright would die before the building's 1959 completion.

Wright made no secret of his disenchantment with Guggenheim's choice of New York for his museum: "I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum," Wright wrote in 1949 to Arthur Holden, "but we will have to try New York." To Wright, the city was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural merit.

Still, he proceeded with his client's wishes, considering locations on 36th Street, 54th Street, and Park Avenue (all in Manhattan), as well as in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, before settling on the present site on Fifth Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets. Its proximity to Central Park was key: the museum is an embodiment of Wright's attempts to render the inherent plasticity of organic forms in architecture.

KKH Re Union

Jackie, Ray and Katie
The KKH reunions at Ray's house in Brooklyn and we are greeted by Ray in his salwar kameez and Afghani hats, which he hands out to the men. This is only the second time we have been together as a group since August 1997. All are assembled, missing only Sonnet, and include Ray, Tom, Sharon, Joanna, Katie, me and - of course - Munir.

The route, on the Pakistani side, commenced at Taxila City (40km from Islamabad and Rawalpindi) to Abbottabad, where Bin Laden killed. I had forgotten that we lunched not far from his mansion, which was located on the KKH at the intersection of the road leading to the military academy. From there is was Chatter Plain near Basham (famous for its gun trade) then Kohistan, "the mountain district."

Munir tells the story of Yakub Shaw and the Punjabi wrestler.

One night, in Kashgar, Yakub was at a restaurant with the famous Punjabi wrestler who was with his entourage of ten men. After a loud evening, the Punjabi wrestler departed without paying his our his entourage's bill. Yakub overheard the proprietor complaining about the Pakastanis and the trouble they caused. He said, "No. Do not complain about the Pakistanis.  I am Pakistani." Then he paid their bill and then went immediately to the hotel room of the Punjabi wrestler. He entered the room with force and locked the door behind him from the inside.  From outside, people heard a terrible noise and banging. After 30 minutes, Yaqub opened the door. The Punjabi wrestler was on the floor where he had received a terrible beating [Munir indicates Yaqub washing his hands of the whole affair as he walks by the entourage].

Saturday, January 24


Madeleine and her pals
The last couple weeks have zipped by including the Noel Xmas party for Astorg at a..  . haunted house in Paris (Sonnet: "That was unexpected.")Noa's Bat Mitvah, Hampton School's "A" squad advance to the final eight of the English Schools FA Cup, or ESFA, out of 610 squads.  Sonnet prepares for the opening of Italian Fashion in Portland, Oregon (she will take Madeleine) and I soon depart for a week on the East Coast including seeing Katie in NYC and a reunion of the Silk Road at the professor's home in Brooklyn.

Eitan stands before the refrigerator. Sonnet: "What are you looking for?"
Eitan: "Food."

Roger Goes Public

A typical Box employee
Roger's company Box floats (the stock price is up!) on the New York Stock Exchange raising $175m, underwritten by several investment banks including Morgan Stanley where, Roger reminds us, he began his career shortly after Brown. Now who is holding the bag? 

Roger's decision to leave the security of Microsoft a courageous one, requiring a relocation from Seattle to Silicon Valley. While the transition disruptive, his family has thrived and matured and it has been a joy, though not always, to be a part of it. You've come a long way, baby.

Saturday, January 10

The Long Road

Lest we forget how far these kids have come.

Eitan considers his mock GCSEs, exams he will take in 18 months. He will sit 12 subjects and must today choose three electives. No easy task, deciding one's future. You will be hearing a lot about the GCSEs, dear reader. Stay tuned.

Eitan: "Didn't somebody once ask you in an interview what vegetable you would want to be?"
Me: "Brussel sprouts. Nobody would eat me."
Madeleine: "I would want a vegetable that gets respect. Like broccoli."
Me: "Broccoli?"
Madeleine: "Beetroot doesn't get any respect."
Klara: "What about a tomato?"
Eitan: "Good one only it's a fruit."
Madeleine: "If I was a fruit I would want to be a passion fruit. No, wait, a guava."
Madeleine: "So I would be living in the tropics."
Me: "I'm glad we've got the fruit and veg covered."

Race Day Collage

Wimbledon Common 
Madeleine runs a x-country race on Wimbledon Common competing against 100 girls or so.  The 3K race starts on a flat green "but then winds its way through a horrible muddy terrain" (says Madeleine). She now tells me that her strategy was to "charge through the puddles and mud swamps while the other runners went around them."

I watch the final push - go Madeleine! - and she finds an extra gear to pass 4 girls (pictured) to finish an unofficial 13th (first for her new club Hercules Wimbledon).

Madeleine: "It felt like there was a knife in my shoulder and my asthma was super-bad." (Dad's note, Madeleine races with an inhaler which she uses during and after running and any exertion)

Sunday, January 4

Goal Posts

The kids cooperate on Gracie's holiday present
From one muddy pitch to the next, Eitan plays center mid field against Worster Park on a cold, wet and dark day in a concrete town on the outskirts of London. The morning made worse by the outcome: 4-2 them (Eitan scores one, misses another). It should have been a draw but those are the breaks. Madeleine wisely stays in bed.

Now I am in Paris and despite the date it still feels like Christmas. The lights and ornaments remain along Faubourg St Honoree and carols fill the hotel. Are the retailers trying to eek out a few more holiday sales or the French unwilling to let go? (Sonnet took everything down December 31).

Madeleine, doodling: "It's an animal. And a pineapple."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "Its a pinanimal."
Madeline: "This one is a Frankenstein dog. A Frankendog."
Me: "Cool."

Saturday, January 3

Surrey Cross Country Championships

 We sit around the kitchen listening to the rain on a dark Saturday morning. The kids running a cross country race. Even Rusty hesitates in these conditions. I have become that parent who talks about walking six miles in the snow to get to school. Well .. my and Katie's swimming galas went from the crack of dawn to late evening or night. Madeleine rolls her eyes.

We arrive at Lloyds Park in the Borough of Croydon (awful, Kate Moss is from here) to find the various clubs doing their pre race preparations and I think: Military. I take the dog for a tour of the course and it is unrunnable in the mud without spikes.

Madeleine's race, 3K, off first - bang! - and the many legged beast heads for the first turn, lost from site over the hill and into the common.  There is a strange loll while the spectators seek a new vantage point (I head towards the finish line) then there they are - at least the front runner, covered in mud grimacing, in effort - racing down the final incline towards the finishing shoot. Madeleine is in hot pursuit, maybe 30 yards outside. She finishes, clutching her inhaler, in 12:25, good enough for a top place.

Final leg
Eitan sits around for 1.5 hours before his starting gun. He competes with the U15s which get an extra kilometre for the 4k race. Cross country new to both kids and Eitan surveys the course beforehand.

Eitan off like a rocket, settles in and finishes in the middle of the pack.

Both kids satisfied/ relieved when it is over. In the car Madeleine devours a 'bacon buddy' and Eitan a muffin and bag of crisps. Bravo.

Me (kids dive into pizza): "Say something about the race."
Sonnet: "Everybody has to have a piece of broccoli!"
Madeleine: "It was very tough."
Eitan: "The puddles made it fun."

Friday, January 2

Napoleon In The House

Napoleon's Coronation, which we saw last month at the Louvre
Sonnet and I begin the New Year with War And Peace, ten hours of it, broadcast on Radio 4 all day, New Year's day. It is a wonderful production, abridged of course, and brings alive the book I read several years ago.

W&P, Vanity Fair and Les Miserables (which I read following our visit to the Paris sewers) each cover the same period of history focusing on Napoleon's failure in Moscow or Waterloo. Tolstoy, Thackery and Hugo create epicness by making the wars a major character in their tails while writing their stories 50 or 60 years after the demise of the French army.  It is a window into a different era that changed the future of Europe.

And Napoleon, for his part, rose from the French Revolution of 1789. He dominated European affairs for two decades, leading France in the  Napoleonic Wars and seizing control of most of continental Europe before Waterloo 1815. One of the greatest commanders in history, his campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide and he remains simultaneously one of the most celebrated and controversial political figures in European history.

In civil affairs Napoloeon put in place many liberal reforms across Europe summarized by British historian Andrew Roberts:

"The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire."

"Imagination rules the world."-Napoleon Bonaparte