Sunday, October 25

What A City

The City
The financial district, taken from the 27th floor of The Shard.

The most prominent tower in the photo - 20 Fenchurch St also affectionately known as "the walkie-talkie" due to its unusual shape - curves outward at the top creating greater upper level floor space. Architecturally it is unusual. Cynically, it means higher overall rent.

Everywhere one looks, the city transformed. Last month, the biggest single development approved at Greenwich Peninsula creating 13,000 new homes, 2 schools and a 40,000sq foot film studio. Before that, The Shell Centre project will singular change the river's southside at Waterloo. A favourite building torn down for modern condos. My train ride into town leaves a city almost unrecognisable from ten years ago. One giant sprawling mess representing millions of battles, compromises, sacrifices, corruptions, gains and losses. But oh so valuable.

Autumn Season

Eitan runs the first cross country race of the year, a relay in Guilford where each of three runners completes 2.5k.  Eitan reckons there were twenty teams and Hercules Wimbledon take fourth place. The boy takes the first leg, delivering sixth place, while Zac and Sam bring up the rankings on the back half.  The course is a "mildly hilly park trail" leaving the competitors to fend for themselves on the wet narrow path.  Eitan's strategy is to "go off with the leading pack and stick with it."  He notes further:  "Painful. I was running with a Kingston runner all the way but he overtook me in the end."

The Orensteins to Paris last night only dad forgets the keys to the flat in the Marais and we miss the last Eurostar by a few minutes. Since Zuma and Nobu fully booked, Eitan and I stay up late watching 'Halloween' while Sonnet makes late night steak followed by ice cream and cookies.

The pumpkins have been carved.
Zac, Eitan and Sam

Sunday, October 18

Self Portrait XXXXVII

Me: "Do you want to do some meditation with me?" [Dad's note: I am experimenting with meditation and mindfulness]
Madeleine: "No."
Me: "Tell you what. You have a choice. You can walk the dog. Do maths homework or meditate with me. What's it going to be"
Madeleine: "Do I have to answer?"
Me: "Yes."
Madeleine: "Meditate."
Me: "So we will do some breathing exercises, concentrating on the air passing by our nose or throat and just relaxing."
Madeleine: "Isn't this like taking a nap?"
Me: "Roll with it. You are meant to fall awake, not asleep."
Madeleine: "What's the point?"
Me: "It will make you feel better, in better control of your thoughts. Grow white brain matter. Be smarter."
Madeleine: "Do I have to?"


Madeleine asks me - seriously - to take her and her friends to IKEA on a Saturday evening and so I do. It's Madeleine, Maddy, Theia and Izzy. An excellent crew. I listen to them giggle and hyperventilate on the ride to Wembley at 6PM.  I try to become invisible, just a fly on the wall, as the girls discuss clothes and school and boys.

Honestly, IKEA is exhausting but what a place to people watch: an Indian grandma tests a sofa mattress by laying on it spread eagle. A Russian couple with baby check out tables and kids race about in the trolleys risking death and the wrath of, well, me. I count it as a cultural experience.

I ask the cashier the busiest time? And she tells me the weekend, which is fair enough, but Saturday evening ? It's when people can do it.

And this: The company is responsible for approximately 1% of world commercial-product wood consumption.

Madeleine: "I'm kind of over IKEA."

Saturday, October 17

ManU Is Sharp

Eitan wears his favorite top, a retro 1980s ManU jersey, a gift from Christian.

Sharp Electronics the first Man U shirt sponsor with an an initial five-year deal worth £500,000, beginning in the 1982–83 season. The relationship lasted 18 years until Vodafone agreed a four-year, £30 million shirt deal in 2000. 

More recently, in 2012, United signed a seven-year deal with General Motors which replaced Aon as the shirt sponsor from the 2014–15 season. The $80m/ year shirt deal is worth $559m over seven years and features the Chevrolet logo, which is kind of bunk for a Premiere League team.

Friday night and Sonnet returns late from Venice and Florence where she has spent the week visiting historical archives to research aspects of Italian fashion. Eitan ducks into the living room to inform me he is off to football practice while Madeleine at a sleep-over. Veronica exits for friends and drinks. This leaves me and Rusty, so I kick up my feet and watch the Coen Brothers' "Blood Simple" and could not be happier.

Sunday, October 11

A Young Man

The boy now eats a sandwich (as I write), followed by a bowl of cereal. It's 6PM so dinner in one hour. We have stopped fighting it : As Sonnet says, "bottomless pit." I am reminded of his enormous loving Jamaican day-care taker, Eitan age 1, who frequently commented on Eitan's appetite ("That boy loves his food").

Anthony stops by to watch the Australian-Wales rugby match and catch us up on things: he is moving from Islington to Clapton in Hackney, East London, which is now the next uber cool location as the East End  pushes towards the Olympics Park. Once known for it's 'Murder Mile' - stretch of tarmac that was once known as Britain's deadliest by murder as recently as 2002. Now the gays have moved in, followed by the hipsters, artists and techies serviced by trendy bars, bakeries and cafes. It is still urban gritty, I understand, but filled with young people trying to comfort themselves of their anxieties or revel in their youth.

Anthony's business, Barmetrix, provides operational and cost management software for bars. He has 40 clients, all of whom need to be serviced. Over a pint, of course. 

Me: "Eitan how does it feel to be 15?"
Eitan: "Good."
Me: "Anything else?"
Eitan: "It feels a lot older."
Eitan: "Than 14."

Wednesday, October 7

An Email From David C

How convenient
All bullets
Cameron knows
Our attention span is very

I believe we’re on the brink of something special in our country.
This year, we’ve seen more people in work than at any time in our history; more of our children starting university than ever before; more British entrepreneurs setting up shop than anywhere else in Europe.
Wages are rising. Hope is returning. We’re moving into the light.
But we’re not there yet. We’re only halfway through.
We can make this era – these 2010s – a defining decade for our country: the turnaround decade.
And our goal is a Greater Britain.
With strong defence and a strong economy.
An NHS that there’s for everybody, and schools that stretch our children.
And over the next five years we will show that the deep problems in our society are not inevitable.
That a childhood in care doesn’t have to mean a life of struggle.
That a stint in prison doesn’t mean you’ll get out and do the same thing all over again.
That being black, or Asian, or female, or gay doesn’t mean you’ll be treated differently.
A Greater Britain – made of greater expectations.
Where renters become homeowners, employees become employers, a small island becomes an even bigger economy, and where extremism is defeated once and for all.
A country raising its sights, its people reaching new heights.
A Greater Britain – made of greater hope, greater chances, greater security.

Sunday, October 4

Record Board

Berkeley High School pool
30 years and still there for the 200 and 500y freestyle, earned with hard work during a different era : distance swimming was all about .. distance. My technique as an age-grouper never so good - I relied on a two best cross over which supported a fairly rapid stroke turn-over (to keep the body aligned and hips neutral, my legs crossed in sync with my arms and following two natural kicks or "beats").  Ten miles a day, back-and-forth, in a 25 yard pool.

Today, thanks to guys like Matt Biondi and, famously, Ian Thorpe who single-handedly defeated the Americans in the 4x200 m freestyle relay in the 2004 Australian Olympics, the technique is more about front glide and catch-up. I use this today (having watched Thorpe and others on youtube) and cut my stroke from 20-21 rotations a lap to 12. Just like that.

Regardless of those times back then, swimming introduced me to a committed group of fabulous people. It also introduced structure into my life (6AM swim ! 3PM swim!) which helped my schoolwork and studies. There was no time for goofing off. It gave me my confidence.

Now I find lap swimming a challenge given the boredom. I can barely do 1500m.  What we did then ? No way now.

Fashion Fashion

Magdalen Frackoic
Sonnet joins me in Paris (I have a temporary residence in the 4e) during Fashion Week to see Dior, Issey Miyake and Lowe and Rick Owens. Glamour is everywhere with exhibition tents set up in the Louvre courtyard, Tuileries and Place de la Concorde. Paris buzz's with models, gay dudes and the fashionistas who I think are all hanging out in the Marais after a day on Rue Faubourg St Honoree.

Hussein Chalayan's exhibition included two outfits (Sonnet describes) worn by women who stood motionless throughout the catwalk show. Towards the end, a shower of water cascaded down from the ceiling drenching them and dissolving their clothes (they wore outfits underneath). Before Sonnet describes the spectacle I see it on Vine.

Eitan's Lions lose to Barnes in Surrey Cup action in a tense match that sees our side go down on the dreaded PKs. Eitan had a shot to end the match with minutes to go on a free-kick from 35m out but his perfectly placed ball sails several inches high. Them are the breaks.

Saturday, October 3

Buzz Words

I pick up Eitan and Luke at Hampton following their football match against Ardingly (Hampton wins 3-2). Traffic delays the return by 1.5 hours and, to pass the time, I stretch followed by some mindfulness training on a bench, then by a sun nap. Me to Eitan: "Basically all the things that embarrass you." Eitan: "Yeah."

I give Madeleine an afternoon lift to the train station.
Me: "What are you going to do in Clapham?"
Madeleine: "I dunno."
Me: "Are you going shopping? Hanging out? Coffee?"
Madeleine: "Hanging out. I don't drink coffee."
Me: "With whom?"
Madeleine: "Some friends."
Me: "Boys? Girls? Both?"
Madeleine: "Both."
Me: "Does it make it more interesting with boys?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, I guess."
Me: "Do you guys sit about and giggle?"
Madeleine: "OK, Dad, train's here."

I overhear Madeleine describe 'The Road' to Gracie: "It's a dystopian novel."
Me to Sonnet: "That's a hundred grand on education well spent."

Thursday, October 1

Belated 15

Eitan turns 15 on the last day of September.

Engaged in school, sport, family and friends, Eitan wears his heart on sleeve yet keeps his cool, too, when things don't go to plan. In this regard, we have always had faith in Eitan's ability to deliver the goods. Sometimes this nets unreasonaby high expectations but he handles the external (parental) pressure with aplomb and seems genuinely pleased with the life balance he enjoys.

Eitan is also a good brother. Sure, just like any older brother, he is sometimes unaware of his biggest fan but Eitan is mostly aware of Madeleine. They have shared swimming and athletics; sometimes dog walks (at least who does it) and household chores (mostly without complaint). This summer Eitan and Madeleine endured Outward Bound in the Scottish Highlands. Last year it was 2,000 miles in a car, side-by-side, along a two lane blacktop. I expect their friendship to be a gift well beyond their years at 45.

Eitan's accomplishments in 2015 have been numerous : chosen team captain for the Sheen Lions, Hampton School in the Final Four of the English School Football Association, reaching 5'10, strong marks in his coursework (lots of praise from teachers), and a  4:34 in the 1500m..

Mostly Eitan is happiest tucking into an afternoon bacon sandwich, plopping down on the sofa for a ManU game, contemplating his next lie in.

How proud we are of this thoughtful and intelligent young man who blooms before us.