Sunday, November 29

A Final Thanksgiving

Madeleine post theatre. DDG
We celebrate Thanksgiving today, Sunday, with Halley, Willem, Ava and Zoe. Their family continues to achieve as Willem in his second year running Oxford's mindfulness centre while Ava now on the Arsenal U15s girls squad (training with the U17s) and Zoe has her interview at Oxford. I give her a mock interview and try to twist her knickers but she handles herself beautifully. Halley keeps it all moving forward with a steady hand.

Eitan stumbles in late to dinner having captained the Lions to victory over Dundonald Juniors FC 6-nil. Saturday it was Hampton defeating the Harrodian School 5-nil.

Saturday, November 28

Urban Kids

Clapham Junction
There is no doubt that Eitan and Madeleine are city kids. It is difficult to appreciate how different this is from the California I grew up in and they know from holiday visits to Berkeley or the mountains. My experiences as a youngster - swimming, walking to Telegraph Ave to buy comics, Cal football, hot tubs - may be completely irrelevant to what they experience now. 

But somehow I doubt it.

Madeleine's Theatre

Thanksgiving II

From Richmond Park and Eitan's race, I dash to the Battersea Arts Centre to see Madeleine's theatre production "Cloud9". Eitan joins me against his will but soon warms to the inevitability of his circumstances.

Cloud9 described in the program as "exploring the themes of escapism and loneliness in our increasingly cyber world. How does the internet work? What does it mean to be forever connected? Has loneliness become taboo? These are some of the questions we want to ask."

Madeleine is surrounded by, truly, the coolest troupe one could imagine. In school, I can seem them as the eccentrics or odd balls but, on stage, they are natural, connected, powerful. Madeleine has been working her tail off, too, practising with the crew all week until 9PM, arriving home and crashing to bed.

Madeleine's  two minute monologue, "The Magnet", steels the show in this writer's opinion. She delivers without a hiccup, cool as a cucumber. I have not seen nor heard a rehearsal at home. I am further amazed to learn she wrote the script.

Throughout, Madeleine does an admirable job avoiding eye contact with me, Eitan and Veronica (our wonderful Czech au pair) and only at the end does she give me a direct smile. She is proud of herself, and I could not be more proud of her.

Sonnet, who arrives from Brighton where she delivers a lecture on "Fashion and Design", joins us for dinner at Valentina, a family favourite in East Sheen.


Richmond borough cross country championships
On an ordinary day, Friday, I have one of the bast days of my life.

I head to the office for a number of calls, per usual, and manage to do a run along the Thames at lunchtime (per usual). Eitan is competing the Borough Champs, which I have attended six years running, and I must dash to Richmond Park to catch him at the start-line of the 3k course.

With little ceremony, bang, the boys are off. Eitan passes the half-way mark with pain on his face, eyes blinded, and the look of a wild animal being chased for dear life. He is in the lead pack but just barely, and I think: "one of those days." But then on the second loop to the finish line there he is, relaxed and in control. His stride changed and body powerful, moving in rhythm.

Eitan has a masterful race finishing 2nd and qualifying for the Middlesex Championships. He is so pleased with his performance, and I watch as his friends hug him in congratulations. All smiles. He even lets me in his space and seeks my approval, which I give with a nod and private thumbs up. Eitan let's me take a few pictures without the usual embarrassment and resistance. Then we drive home together discussing the race details, strategy, tactics, etc. That's my kid.
Eitan and Zac, who is the No. 2 triathlete in Britain for his age group and a friend and healthy rival at the Hampton School

Rep Night

Super Mom
Sonnet takes her Hampton School "class rep" role seriously (sort of) and organises a holiday drinks at a local pub that is inconveniently hosting a "quiz night" meaning it is unusually crowded and most tables reserved. Oh, well. And traffic murder given a 150 yr old Edwardian house in Barnes collapses as the owner builds a basement, closing a main road and causing commuter havoc (the house BTW valued at £3.8m and its hard to feel sorry for the poor bastard who has disrupted our neighbourhood for his vanity project).

But I digress.  We catch up on all the local gossips from Hampton School (a rare thing since Eitan shares a few grunts when queried). On campus, the boys rebelling against a school mandate for iPads, now required from January 1, despite the majority of Eitan's year not wishing them. Eitan is pretty fired up by the cause and has talked to the head teacher and, with other boys, organised a petition against the distracting and costly devices. The boys also irked that the decision taken without their consultation. Good for them.

Meanwhile, France declares war on ISIS, supported by the British, and the bombing begins. Only too soon will this battle arrive on our doorstep. It is already here.

The Vaccines

And like that it is Saturday morning, late November, post Thanksgiving (which we will celebrate tomorrow with Halley, Willem, Zoe and Ava - who is in London today playing for Arsenal when not on the England squad. More on that later).

This past week sees yours, truly, in London sans travel reminding me of the importance of routine and just being around for the family.

Sonnet and I take advantage by going to a double header of the Palma Violets and the Vaccines at Brixton Academy on Monday with Oliver and Carol, dressed in flare bottom jeans and leather boots. The concert rocks and, dear reader, I admit to ear-plugs BUT the all embracing sensations are hardly diminished. Thank you Christian for the tickets and our shared joy of (British) music. Of course he has met both bands in LA.

Sunday, November 22

Lizzy's Party

The girls arrive for Lizzy's surprise party and Sonnet and I listen to the staccato as 12 girls anticipate the moment (Eitan rolls his eyes, contemplates the pizza, then disappears to the den - not worth it). I ring the front bell a few times, which offers some amusement.

The surprise goes off like a charm and the sugar-fuelled adrenaline reaches a crescendo with Lizzy's arrival - shock, screeches, joy - and the girls hug and cry and talk at each other and, well, bond with their tribe. Lizzy melts right in.

I have my moment as Madeleine asks me to play some music in the living room over Sonos, which I control from my notebook in the kitchen. After a few requests - she wants Justin Bieber (apparently cool again) and a bunch of pop bands I've never heard of - I crank Devo's 'Crack That Whip",  The Time's "Gigolos Get Lonely Too", and Prince's "Little Red Corvette" before I am yanked from my responsibilities.

Mall Rat

Madeleine and I head to Westfield Mall in Shepherds Bush, London, which is also the largest mall in Europe - 30 football pitches of commercial space for 400 shops and restaurants. Our gal needs a winter jacket and it is nearly Thanksgiving. Only North Face will do.

We go early, to avoid the crowds, arriving at 10AM only to find the stores open at noon on Sunday. Still, there are people walking around like zombies. What do they do otherwise ?

Finally, we find a suitable jacket in Kingston, on the other side of Richmond Park. Not wasted time, dear reader : it is a morning spent with my dear heart following a week in Amsterdam for a conference (where I am on a panel title: "Differentiation". Thrills). She always has interesting things on her mind, and today it is vampires since she reads "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson.

Mr Saxophone

Mr Dave Ellis on the tenor saxophone, playing his sweet music. This a rough year as his mother Judith passed away in the early autumn.  Judith was a beacon and rock, and beloved member of the family and a longtime friend from the 7th grade.

Dave is one of the people who makes Berkeley real.

Knock-Out Round

Thursday Sonnet drives two hours to Essex to watch Hampton play Brentwood in the 3rd round of the ISFA Cup, coveted by the team having won the Surreys two seasons ago and Final Four in the English Schools Football Associations cup. The game is nil-nil at the end of regulation time and over-time leading to the dreaded PKs.

Hampton goes up first when Brentwood suffers nerves but in a twist of fate, the brilliant Louie who clinched the Surrey Cup, misses, and it's lights out for the season. Sonnet drives a dispirited bunch home. They sleep, Luke snores.

From there Sonnet and I meet Dale for dinner at Tom's Kitchen, made famous "reality" show "Made In Chelsea", which earns the kids respect. Dale, now in Austin, Texas, and has never heard of it. Go, figure.

Winter Day

Sonnet meets Karen and Stephanie for a loop of Richmond Park or about 7.5 miles. This morning it is -2 degrees, a real jolt from the unusually warm autumn and early winter so far.  It snowed in London yesterday en route to Eitan's football match.

Any how, Rusty is up for any distance, any time of day, any weather condition. I swear the dog has not mellowed at all in 6 years.

Cal loses to Stanford in the Big Game. Since played at 3:30AM GMT, I am unable to listen to Joe Starkey make the play-by-play. Once, before Disney and ESPN and all the corporates took over college football, games were played Saturday, 12:30PM local, which worked well for London. Now broadcasts are timed to reach the widest audience. Think the players' exam schedule consulted ?

On Spanish

Waitrose check out
This photo for reminds me of the little girl we left behind, replaced by a self-assured, engaging teenager.

Madeleine hosts a surprise birthday party for Izzy. Here we are, Friday evening, picking up the goods. Izzy decided not to have a party two weeks ago, on her birthday, as another friend celebrating her birthday the same day with 50 kids. Madeleine is just good like this.

Sunday morning, I wake Madeleine: "Do you want huevos rancheros for breakfast?"
Madeleine: "Huh?"
Me: "Huevos rancheros."
Madeleine: "What do you mean?"
Me: "For breakfast."
Madeleine: "Yeah, but what language were you just speaking in?"

Sunday, November 15


The world mourns the innocent souls who have lost their lives in Paris. Everyone I know effected.

Saturday, November 14


"This is an attack not just on Paris. It is an attack not just on the people of France. But this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share."
--President Hollande

Tuesday, November 10

Making Out

Will, formerly known as "Willouby"
I come home Sunday afternoon, no Sonnet, to a quiet house knowing that Madeleine and Will (formerly known as Willouby) are hanging out in the house. I am momentarily cautioned that they are likely upstairs, in the bedroom, door closed. Caught off guard for some kind of strategy for the situation, Madeleine comes down the stairs in Eitan's monkey suit. Will follows with his skateboard slung over a shoulder. A reprieve. But for how long ?

Me: "And you were embarrassed by my cow suit."

Sunday, November 8

Saturday, November 7

A Date With My Gal

Madeleine and I spend Friday night watching tele and eating pizza. Tonight it is sushi at one of my favourites in W1.

Black cab drivers are generally friendly and professional. Every now and then you get the odd racist but usually they are a source of information - Like how London once got 4-5 feet of winter snow 35 years ago. Or the next up-and-coming neighbourhoods and where to get a salt beef sandwich at 3AM. So I'm caught off guard when my driver enters a rant against Muslims.  Turns out the guy once worked for Microsoft and I knew I should have taken a different cab when he begins, "I told everybody Windows 95 wasn't ready." 

I endure the assault mostly in silence. When not driving a taxi, my guy raises pure-bred poodles. It all makes sense. Or none of it does.

Thursday, November 5

On The Road Again

After a bunch of meetings in Boston, Harrisburg, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Arlington, Horsham and King Of Prussia (yes, a city in Pennsylvania) I now sit peacefully in the American Airlines ambassador lounge awaiting my flight to CDG. I return to London tomorrow evening. We are now at €1.1bn on the Astorg fundraising.

Sonnet will take Eitan to the Olympic Development Camp in Germany for the weekend and Madeleine and I have a weekend to ourselves, already interrupted as she has her theatre/ drama class all-day Saturday and wants to be with her friends Sunday. I have made a reservation at my favourite sushi restaurant Saturday evening which should hold some sway.

Beautiful Common

For November, it is remarkably hot on the Eastern Seaboard - Today, temps reach mid 60s. It feels early spring instead of late autumn.

Quel Scandale

Eric and I connect for a morning stroll across the Boston common and breakfast at a diner at the base of Beacon Hill. I am sad to see him leave, as I prepare for a day of meetings and another one on the road.

In London, a minor scandale erupts when the Guardian reports : "V&A rejects offer to showcase Margaret Thatcher's clothing," which is picked up by the BBC and the Telegraph and everyone else on Fleet Street. Tory MPs take up the cause and roundly criticises the museum - this is is the government responsible for tackling ISIS and terrorism - while the business secretary Sajid Javid goes to twitter: "I for one would have loved to see it! " On offer: 1980s power suits your grandmother would wear.

Monday, November 2

Back To School

Near Imber Court football pitches
And with a groan, Eitan and Madeleine return to school after a two-week half-term break.

The Shakespeares go from sleeping until 10AM (Madeleine) and 11AM+ (Eitan) to 6:25AM (Madeleine) and 7:05AM (Eitan).

It is evident to anybody with teenagers that teens are wired to retire late and sleep late. Why schools don't accommodate their brain schedules a mystery - learning would improve, exam results would improve. Moral and spirit would improve. Everybody benefits. Mornings are just brutal on these kids.

Sunday, November 1

Marc Eitan Reunion

Marc, Eitan's Elm Grove coach, shows up to watch Eitan and Alphie play in today's match. Marc has been a truly wonderful influence on Eitan and I only wish he could be more in his life.

Marc comments on Eitan: "He showed up at every practise ready to learn. He was a joy to coach."

Game Day Fog

Lions vs. Met Police 
The Sheen Lions play the Met Police U15s in a league game that our side wins in 3-2 but not without drama. The Lions up 2-0 at half then cede two goals and the momentum. Eitan sparks up and urges his team mates to dig deep and Joe delivers the winner: a beautiful 20 yard strike taken after he jukes the defender who thinks Joe is going for the easy angle. The boys' spirits soar. Eitan has stomach cramps following the match - something that now happens regularly after hard-fought games. Not surprising given an hour and twenty at 100%.

Eitan's Elm Grove teammate Alphie now plays for the Met Police. Alphie does a cracking job saving at least two goals that should have found net. I catch up with Alphie's Dad, Phil. Just as crazy as ever.
Post action

Pre Match

Self portrait XXXXVIII
Sonnet and I walk the dog near Eitan's football match, across a forgotten bridge next to a nearby water lock. Industrial and unexpected in Surrey. 

Eitan comes home from a Halloween party.
Me: "Was there drinking?"
Eitan: "Yeah, a little."
Me: "Was there dope?"
Eitan: "It's not like it's Berkeley, Dad."
Me to Sonnet: "Touche"

Autumnal Update

Madeleine post Halloween party
Sonnet and I have entered, some time ago, the next stage of parenting, responsible for two teenagers who have fast become independent little dudes. I once thought - correctly I might add - that we owned the Shakespeares 100% until about 8 or 9. Then it dropped to 50-50 by 11-12 and now I would say it's 20%. Or maybe 10%. Today it is all about the power of suggestion. At least, mostly.

Sonnet attends the denim conference, "Denim On Stage" in Amsterdam, the European capital of denim (she informs me). Denim is a $60bn industry with the best quality from Italy and Japan (It's kind of like Wagyu cattle or Argentine beef, I might offer). Sonnet notes the gathering of academics and industry. The conference launched by the denim fashion awards with six hot young designers vying for the title of 'denim designer of the year' and a €10k prize.
Sonnet: "We had the Godfather of modern denim, Adriano Goldschmied, who invented stone-wash and acid-washed denim. And Hisao Manabe from Japan, who founded Japan Blue, the supplier for denim collectors at crazy prices."

Me: "You have a choice. You can do the front yard work and earn some money."
Madeleine: "Or?"
Me: "You can do it for free."
Madeleine: "£15."
Me: "£8."
Madeleine: "£10."
Me: "£9."
Madeleine: "Do I have to do it today?"
Me: "Yep. You're on my time now."

Oxford Halloween

St John's College
We visit Alain and Nita in Oxford for a tea following the conference. The three Zs preparing for Halloween, friends over, watching some horror movie (shrieks from the living room). The kitchen chalk-board filled with equations I don't understand (Zebulan submitting a proof to an Oxford competition for the £500 prize).

I go for a jog along the nearby canal which takes me past the moored canal boats, narrow and long, some run down and mossy. The path muddy and by fields the one side, and Oxford houses the other. A lone man burns leaves on his baron plot; another talks to himself on his boat. It is dark from 4PM and the route spooky and appropriate. I'm happy to have it done with as the sun sets behind me.


A photo posted by ISIS that shows the destruction of a Shiite religious site.
Sonnet and I to Oxford to attend the 'Culture In Crisis: Conflict and Cultural Heritage" where leading experts on the Middle East discuss the destruction of ancient Syria, Iraq, and Yemen treasures. It was open to the public and free to encourage an open, wide and accessible debate. Sonnet a representative of the collections on the business continuity planning committee, ie, disaster prevention.

Confucius said: "Study the past if you would define the future." In Iraq, the past is glorious and long.

This is where the world's first cities were built and where writing and organized government were first developed more than 5,000 years ago. This is the land that gave the world its first great literary work - the Epic of Gilgamesh, king of the city of Uruk - over 1,000 years before Homer, and over 2,000 years before Christ.

ISIS, like so many iconoclastic extremist groups through history, seeks to destroy the record of the past. They've just upped the ante.

"[ISIS] has been very consistent in doing two things: they destroy antiquities for effect, and they likely use the smokescreen of destruction to cover themselves while they move more transportable items for profit. It is, after all, a criminal organization."
Mark Vlasic, an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center