Sunday, April 23

It's The London Marathon

Mary Keitany flies (photo from the www)
Madeleine and I watch the London Marathon, which is inspiring. This year's race won by 35 year-old Ethiopian Mary Keitany in 2:17.01 and 24-year old Kenyon Daniel Wanjiru in 2:05.56.  Mary's time a World Record for the 'women's only' marathon and the 2nd fastest women's marathon ever behind the great Paula Radcliff's 2:15:25 in 2003, a time which may remain another 10 years.

Meanwhile my fellow couch potatoes sit around a dinner table drinking wine discussing the benefits of long distance bicycling which most of my peers seem to engage by 50. It is all about the gear.

Me: "You were so happy when I wore the cow suit to school." [Dad's note: I wore my marathon cow suit on the school run c.2009].
Madeleine: "I was so embarrassed."
Me: "No you weren't. In fact, you were introducing your friends to The Cow. Like the Cow was Prince or Madonna."
Madeleine: "Eitan was was mortified."
Me: "True. He didn't walk with us, poor kid."
Madeleine: "Why did you do it anyway?"
Me: "Madeleine, all the things I've done that embarrass and humiliate you .. "
Madeleine: "Yeah?"
Me: "You will do to your kids. "
Me: "And it might make you a better parent."
Madeleine: "Gracie wore a gorilla mask when she visited you at Brown."
Me: "Fair point." 

Sunday, April 16

Martin's Tool Shed

The neighbour's garage
Martin has a lifetime of cool shit in his garage - today, he is fixing an ancient generator as a favour to a friend. He has chords and sockets, soldering irons, power instruments for God Knows What, spools, vice grips, drills the size of my arm, measurements and all sorts of tools. Tools and more tools. Today I borrow his 32 foot retractable aluminium ladder hung securely from the garage ceiling.

Better, Martin knows how to fix things. No project is too simple to be made complicated; no complicated project is too complex for the right tool. We spend a lot of time discussing this principal.

Me: "Eitan please finish up the dishes when you are done." [Dad's note: Eitan makes a bacon fry-up while I am doing the dishes].
Eitan: "Why do I have to?"
Me: "Because you're the last one making a mess."
Eitan: "I just don't see your reasoning."
Me: "You're right. Actually I hadn't thought of it before but you are doing the hard part. Eating."
Me: "Sonnet, check this out. All the time I think to myself, Eitan should clean up after himself but, really, he is doing the hard bit."
Eitan: "Okay, Dad, I get it."
Me: "I insist. Here, let me wash that pan for you."
Eitan: "I can do it, alright?"
Me: "Oh, no, I wouldn't dream of it."
Sonnet: "I think you've made your point."
Me: "Time will tell."

Saturday, April 15

Loco Motion

Heading to London
Barnes Railway Station is one stop from Mortlake Train Station where I begin my commute.

The station is seven miles from Waterloo and opened in 1846 when the Richmond line was built and Richmond a far away village relying on horse and buggy or the river to London.  Trains brought commerce and connection and, eventually, the London garden suburbs.

My commute takes about 25 minutes to W'loo (rush hour, no seat) then two stops on the underground to Green Park Station and a brisk walk to St James's Square.

Mind you, the first public steam railway in the world was 1825 with the Locomotion for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. In 1830 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway offer exclusive use of steam power for passenger and freight trains.

Eitan: "Dad is that safe?" [Dad's note: Dad is at the top of a fully extended ladder, power washer in hand, washing the second floor windows].
Me: "Yes."

Easter Weekend

Self image XXXXXII
Eitan: "Can we get Sky Sports again?" [Dad's note: I stopped the Sky Sports subscription to save 25 quid a month].
Me: "I'll think about it."
Eitan: "It's so much better than watching sport on my computer."
Me: "Would you be willing to share the costs?"
Eitan: "What do you mean?"
Me: "How bout we reduce your allowance some amount." [Dad's note - Eitan's monthly allowance is £40]
Eitan: "How much?"
Me: "Make me an offer."
Eitan: "How about four pounds?"
Me: "So it doesn't mean that much to you."
Eitan: "Well how much?"
Me: "Your the one who watches the football. So how about 10?"
Eitan: "That's getting kind'a expensive - it's 25 percent of my allowance."
Me: "How much do you want it kid?"
Eitan: "I'll think about it."
Me: "Deal."

London Rise

Facing East
I cross Waterloo Bridge and am always struck by the ever changing skyline. Even NYC has not seen such construction. I've been to Singapore, Tai Pei and Beijing - maybe.

I am reminded of London's forgotten Golden Rule that no tower could exceed the height of St Paul's nor obstruct its view.  Now skyscrapers poke up like sprouts through the moss. Unfortunately the new build is distributed across the city and the towers look .. erectile.

But what a magnificent river. She flows in and out, from pregnant possibility to renewal.


Her Majesty
It is Easter "bank holiday" weekend - a Big Deal in the UK - and, for once on a bank holiday, it is not raining. Overcast though, of course

Sonnet and I meet in Central London following a breakfast ladies catch up with Sonnet and Diana Clark, who has relocated to Washington DC to save America (Diana was Obama's No.1 fundraiser outside the US in 2008; she is friends with, and supports, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and is on the Board of the Holocaust Museum. Son Michael is graduating from Annapolis in May so Trump is more than personal).

Sonnet and I spend the day walking London, heading East beyond The City and into the East End of Hoxton and Tower Hamlets. The architecture, languages and people change along the route. We go from tourists and theatre to hipster, artist and coffee. And Indian, Iraqi and Paki. And Muslim.

Outside the city center, and before the protected greenbelts, London becomes hard urban - first thing to go are the trees. There are only small parks and a few poorly manicured squares. We walk along cobblestone roads and, thrillingly, wonderful graffiti that scream of anger or suppression or death.

We finish our effort at Waterloo very happy to make the end-run on public transportation.

Friday, April 14

Megadyne !

Megadyne belts
I spend a day in Turino with one of our CEOs touring the factory and being updated on the company's progress. Megadyne is the world leader in the production of high precision polyurethane belts used in industrial applications. Think of a transmission belt shifting power across a machine. Or a conveyer moving a billion cigarettes down the packaging line. The belts making it possible are very likely made by Megadyne.

The company was founded in the 1950s by Carrado Tadolini and now run by his two sons, Giorgio (CEO) and Marco (R&D).  Giorgio's three children are in the business and maybe will continue the family story.

Giorgio is charming and cunning - Carrado started Giorgio on the factory line and today he knows everybody on the floor, who stop their work to say 'hello' or nod their respects.  When Giorgio took on the business in 1995, sales were 2m. Last year they were 300m - a 150-fold increase. Astorg became Co-owner in 2014.

Over lunch, at Giorgio's golf club, I tell Giorgio the story of my great grandfather crossing Ellis Island into lower Manhattan to escape the Russian pogroms of the 1890s. He owned nothing and spoke only Yiddish. My grandfather, Jacob Bernard, Moe's father, left school in the 8th grade to found Star Binding and Printing, which pulled the Orensteins into the great American middle classes. We were fortunate to visit Star Binding in 2014, on its 100th anniversary.

Sunday, April 9

Test Run

Self portrait XXXXXI
I'm up bright and early to break in my hiking boots and try-on my new 75 liter back-pack, which is stuffed with tins of black beans and other items to add some weight to mimic the JMT, or about 40 pounds. I walk the Thames path for two hours and no blisters.

As Eitan and I will pack everything in, and out, I have a small spreadsheet with items weighed to the gram. My Cannon 7D DSLR camera, for instance, comes in at a whopping 1,657 grams (excluding the strap) which will feel like a boulder by the 2nd or 3rd day on the trail. As I tell Sonnet, I can either buy a new camera (mirror cameras weigh about 500g inc lens) or have the boy carry the 7D.

Madeleine runs the first 800m of the season at the Carlshalton track and is disappointed by her time which is slower than her PB set at the last race of last year's season. At least she knows where she stands (advice given, 50-50 useful).

Eitan's Sheen Lions play their last match of an inglorious season losing 2-0, concluding at the bottom of the league table. Onward and forward ho!

Saturday, April 8

First Concert

The band goes on
Madeleine and I see Phantogram at the Shephards Bush Empire - her first concert. The reaction reminds me of Eitan's first movie - Shrek 2 in 2004 - when his eyes went wide as he took in the venue and large screen. Same for Madeleine this time. Of course I was lucky enough to catch her first headphone experience which was mind blowing.

I notice a couple incoming approaches from lads who are half my age. Ok, one third my age. One asks Madeleine for a date and is frozen out. Good girl.

Before the show we have dinner and discuss the usual breezy stuff. She has a lot going on and lives a life 90 percent outside my visibility. Her interests cover 1970s vinyls (posters on her wall of Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin) and film. She and her soft-spoken pal Alfie - who btw is on a Rugby scholarship and owns a Flock Of Seagulls hairdo - kick around London snapping photographs which are pinned to the wall.


Madeleine allows for a hug
We are still allowed to shower affection on the kids as long as it is not public. Fair enough.

The Shakespeares on holiday. Madeleine lounges in bed.
Me: "I'm going to give you a choice."
Madeleine: "Oh, no, Dad. I hate your choices. Don't give me a choice."
Me: "You can rake the leaves and water the plants."
Madeleine: "Or?"
Me: "You can rake the leaves and water the plants and I will pay you for it."
Madeleine, grudgingly: "Pay for it."

Tooting Bec

Hercules Wimbledon
Eitan and Madeleine begin the summer track season in tooting. Madeleine competes the 200m  in 27.66 seconds (best is 25) while Eitan races the 1500 in 4:31 (best of 4:16). The first race of the season is always rough.

Afterwards we take advantage of the weather and I bbq and plant my tomato seedlings.

Me: "How was the race?"
Eitan: "It was pretty fast in the beginning and hurt in the end."
Me: "Takes a while for your body to get used to the pace."
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "What's your goal for the season?"
Eitan: "I'd like to go under 4 minutes [for the 1500]. I've dropped 15 seconds each year the last two seasons."
Me: "Sounds ambitious and reasonable."

Trafalgar Squae

Trafalgar Square on an early springtime evening pulses with the energy of the city. I walk by on my way to the tube most evenings, reflecting on Nelson who graces us passengers with his presence of history.

The Square bordered by the National Gallery and St Martin In The Field church to the North and the Pall Mall to the southwest. 17 bus routes pass Trafalgar Sq making it the hub for central London transportation. It was once famous for its feral pigeons until Ken Livingstone got rid of them with 4 hawks.

My first visit to TS was the summer of 1981. Gulp.

Madeleine calls Sonnet's mobile, interrupting a dinner party: "There's no food in the house."
Sonnet: "There are meatballs in the refrigerator."
Sonnet: "You have to heat them in the oven. No microwave."
Madeleine: "What?"
Sonnet: "Madeleine you will have to sort yourself out." [Dad's note: meatballs untouched]