Friday, February 29


Eitan realises the value of reading - here he is in the sports section and Manchester United.

Meanwhile, I have to threaten Madeleine with a consequence last night for her to bed. I realise that the Hand Of God is always on her forehead, the poor kid, and so I ask her how she feels: "like I'm in prison, Dad" she tells me. "I want to be a Bird or a butterfly. They can do what they want. We had a butterfly in class, who I named "Butty," that got its leg caught in the cocoon. He died." And, I might add, did not enjoy his freedom.

Sonnet and I are gearing up for Hot Chip tonight at the Brixton Academy. They are scheduled for 11PM and since it is a bit disco, I'm planning my outfit: something green and loud, I think. No pictures to be posted, I promise. Renata is babysitting, which earns a squeel of happiness from the peanut gallery.

Wednesday, February 27


Today I visit the Courdault Gallery where Renoir's "La Loge" is on display. These paintings, from 1874, are considered to be a master work of the impressionist movement and display the theatre boxes of Paris's cultural houses. The paintings present the social classes in various states from sexually beguiling to just plane board. Fan-taby-tosa, as Madeleine would say. Modigliani's female nude, pictured, reminds me of my wife.

I'm near Sommerset House (location of the Courdault) following lunch at nearby Christopher's, a cocktail-and-media haunt with my friend Matthew who is at the Economist. For the last four years we have engaged in a bet where the loser buys lunch. Bets have ranged from the fall (or not) of Google's stock price to David Montgomery going to prison (Dear Reader, I worked with David on a buyout several years ago and found him most unsavory). Next year the wager is on the non-dom tax and how many of us will leave. Matthew thinks small number while I think more than 18%. Stay tuned. A gentleman's side bet is Facebook losing 20% of its audience.

Catching up from Sunday: I return from Helsinki greeted at the door by the usual post-trip query spoken in urgency: "did you bring us any presents? Did you?" Ah, yes - familiarity. I'm in Nordea meeting with several investors and pursuing a secondary deal or two. Sonnet, the road-runner, recovers meanwhile from a half-marathon in Tonbridge Wells where she completes the hilly race in one-hour and 52-minutes. Bravo! This is the course I finished in 1:16.30 in 1998 while preparing for the London Marathon. I imagine I won't be going that fast again but oh well, I'm happy to be alive. Sonnet gives a press interview where she discusses feathers in fashion. Apparently they are making a come-back.

Sunday, February 24

Coal Mine

Big Pit's winching mechanism - pictured - once dropped miners, horses and equipment into the coal beds, hauling out their efforts upon return. Today, we wear a plastic hard hat and ‘safety lamp’ and clip our re-breather emergency supply which, in an emergency, will filter foul air for approximately one hour giving us a chance for survival and escape. Contraband like my camera and blackberry are surrendered as anything containing a dry cell battery, which could spark, is prohibited. The dangers of the mine are real - the safety posters on the stages of Carbon Monoxide poisoning serve as museum pieces and reminders of the dangers of underground. Automatic gas monitoring systems are discreetly positioned around the tunnels as are emergency telephones. No wonder Madeleine freaks out.

Stan points out that my guess at Sonnet's age is off by a decade. It is more likely 1985, or perhaps highschool graduation in '86.

"To cure the British disease with socialism was like trying to cure leukaemia with leeches."
Margaret Thatcher

Saturday, February 23

Big Pit

We stop at
Big Pit, a coal mine in Blaenovon, south-west Wales. Since 1983, it has been open to the public and designated a National Heritage Site. The pit was first worked in 1860, called "Big Pit" because it was the first shaft in Wales large enough to allow two tram-ways. In the late 1870s the shaft was deepened to 293 feet. By 1908, Big Pit provided employment for 1,122 people, but this number gradually decreased until 1970 the workforce numbered 494. It closed on February 2, 1980. We learn that the mines were worked 365 days a year in two twelve hour shifts. Until the late 19th century, children as young as six were used underground and a miner typically worked with his teenage son. Our guide tells us the comradery was special and generally the men could do whatever they pleased "but don't go bend'n over for your soap" he says (ar ar). Until electrics, welsh horses (small in size) were used for hauling carts and kept in the mines 50 weeks of the year, never seeing sunlight or green pasture. Safety was never an owner's priority and it was not until the early 20th century that the workers received government protections and unionised. As for us today pictured - we go down 400 feet - Eitan loses his safety belt - Madeleine hates it - I try to keep us up with the group having no desire to be left behind on this one.


Yes, the spa has a pool and Eitan is excited. Friday we swim two-hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. They. .. never . ... grow . . . tired . . . . Both show me their racing dives which amount to a jump (Madeleine) or belly-flop (Eitan). They goof with kick-boards and other floaties while I have fun tossing them about or carrying each on my shoulders. Pruny fingers and boredom (me) drag us away. Finally.

On to football: Eitan is transfixed by Manchester United, whose win today closes the gap with Arsenal who draw with Birmingham City. As we glossy readers know, United's star striker Wayne Rooney will marry grade-school sweetheart Coleen, who is planning the wedding and, surprise shocker, Wayne's family - not invited! Coleen has learned her lesson: her eighteenth birthday saw both sides of the family in a fist fight (Wayne's family are amateur boxers); her 21st found Wayne's cousin Natalie famously out of her dress (weeks later, Natalie underwent a boob job, upping herself from 34C to a more media friendly 34FF, noting "I'll be getting them out all over the place"). Wayne's cousin Stephen is on record wearing knickers ("If Coleen wants me as a bridesmaid then she won't be let down. I've been hitting all the shops"). Egad. Worse, Eitan sees David Beckham wearing an Armani bikini on the back of some mag. For the boy, it remains somehow about the football. Me, I just want a World Cup.


I've only been to Wales several times, including a memorable trip with friend Rhys in '98 then climbing Snowdownia, the highest peak in the country and second highest on Britain after Ben Nevis where we spent Eitan's first birthday (another story). Phew. Wales is not particularly inspiring by my experience and the towns are pretty dreadful - we visit Newport, at the mouth of the River Usk, on our way and boy is it dreary. Never mind that the Usk is tidal so we see mudflats. There just ain't much to the city other than a depressing high-street, idle teenagers and old-age pensioners hanging out at the British Home Shop (BHS) department store where we have lunch (kids happy with a greasy fry-up). Yes, I'm glad to fly through here. I think of Pennsylvania or some other rust belt place which perhaps appropriate as the Welsh economy was in large part based on coal until Maggie famously cracked the unions in the mid-80s. Today Wales struggles to find its place and there is plenty of subsidised construction, at least in Newport, suggesting a revival attempt: architectural bridges, brand-new road ways, condo developments. Now if it would only stop raining.

The kids watch The Incredibles and post-movie we discuss the best action hero. Eitan goes for testosterone: Ben 10! The Hulk! Mr Incredible! Madeleine: "Definitely Mrs. Incredible. She's super cool." We argue who would win a fight: Ben 10 v. Spider Man or The Hulk v. Mr Incredible. We all have an opinion and I use The Hulk as a segway to temper management - who says the Super Hero's don't teach life-lessons for the adults?


Solo, I take the kids to thee Brecon Beacons (Welsh: Bannau Brycheiniog) as Sonnet is saving her holidays for summer plus preparing for a Sunday half-marathon. The Beacons, I learn, are a mountain range in south-east Wales belonging to that country's largest national park. We stay at the Nant Ddu Lodge and Spa which is tucked away in the hills next to a mountain stream and open fields stuffed with sheep. The Brecon Beacons range, properly speaking, consists of the mountains to the south of Brecon, a mid-evil trading village. The highest of these is Pen y Fan (886-meters and pictured through the fog- barely) then Corn Du (873-meters), Cribyn (795) and Fan y Big (719). It is popular hiking no doubt but rest assured, Dear Reader, that the cold, misty clime and lack of proper gear, ie, non-trainers, keep us in the car. The mere suggestion of a stroll - let alone a hike - nets a tremendous push-back from the little ramblers. So I take some snaps, kids in car, and a local caf tells me the Beacons are named after the ancient practice of lighting signal fires (beacons) on the mountains to warn of attacks by the English. Now it is done to commemorate public and national events such as coronations or the millennium.

Wales has castles aplenty and we find a lovely not far from the main road. Further angry protest from the back-seat results in a forced march but we are eventually rewarded with splendid views of the Tretower castle, which was built in the 12th century. Way cool.

Wednesday, February 20

Rock Don Ron Is A Non-Dom

Northern Rock chief Ron Sandler enjoys privileged non-domicile tax status, it emerged last night (The Sun provides my title). For those not following the melt-down that is British Chancellor Alistair Darling, Northern Rock was nationalised Monday following a bona fide run on the bank last year. We tax payers find ourselves on the hook for £100 billion after the government failed to sell the mortgage lender despite several offers including Richard Branson. Furthering Alistair's misery today, he blatantly stole an ill-conceived Tory suggestion to levy a £30,000 annual charge for UK residents who don't declare foreign income (so-called "non-doms"). This is us and about every other American in London. The intention is to penalize the Russians and the other in-your-face rich but instead may net an exodus of talent from London's financial centre, perhaps the sole world class asset this country enjoys and a driver of the UK economy. Us ex-pats pay in over £2 billion per year in taxes, excluding what we spend on the high street or invest from abroad. While Darling rescinded several of his more onerous positions including tax on foreign trust and asset registration, the nut remains in place and we shall see the outcome.

Photo of Sonnet from 1975, I would guess. Perhaps Stan can give me the year? Tonight Halley joins us for the night and we are having drinks with her and other non-dom friends at The Lanesborough.

Tuesday, February 19

This Chick Can Fly

Another world Record falls in Missouri, this time by Cal alum Natalie Coughlin who clocks a 59.21 in the 100-meter backstroke yesterday (photo of Coughlin from She breaks her prior time by .23 seconds and remarkably is .4 seconds off-pace at the 50-meter mark in the race (this is about a half-body length). In 2007 she became the first woman under one minute in the event. Natalie is from Concord, California, which is not too far from Berkeley beyond Oakland's Caldecott Tunnel and next door to Walnut Creek where I trained with the weirdly named Aqua Bears. She's 15 years younger so I've not seen her swim but I do keep track of her progress - several years ago she was profiled in the New Yorker magazine, for instance. Also on Sunday, Katie Hoff set her second American record in as many days as she took the women's 200 meters freestyle in one minute 56.08 seconds to defeat Coughlin for the second time in two days. The women's team appears ready for Beijing

England has focused its attention on the wild cat - apparently the creature's population dwindles and is seldom seen these days. In response and with earnest concern, an all-hands request has gone across Britain to report wild cat sightings. The wild cat was once prevalent in Britain - as ubiquitous as the red fox or wily stout - but today its populations is estimated to be 16,000. What is unusual about the wild cat is that, unusually, it looks just like a house cat. Same size. Same coloring. No wild temper nor sharp fangs like a U.S. bob-cat. So I must wonder: does this really merit a slot on the BBC's prime-time news or front page of many Fleet Street newspapers? To a countryside rambler, it is a
cause célèbre and a contrast to the US's Paris Hilton or Britney Spears.

Monday, February 18

World Pace

19-year old Katie Hoff breaks the U.S. 400-meter freestyle record in Columbia, Missouri, finishing in 4:03.20 (picture from U.S. Swimming). The record, until yesterday, was held by Janet Evans and the oldest on the American record books dating to the '88 Seoul Olympics. In the next lane, Kirsty Coventry topped the 17-year world record in the 200-meter backstroke, finishing in 2:06.39 nearly three-tenths of a second faster than the record. In Sydney, 22 year-old Eamon Sullivan set the world mark in the 50-meter freestyle with his time of 21.56, eclipsing the great Russian Alexander Popov's 2000 time of 21.64. I recall Dano Halsall, who I trained with in '84 and Geneve Natation, during my high school junior year, setting the record of 22.52 in 1985 (four months later it was surpassed by American Tom Jager). In 23 years, the race has improved 4.3%. Dano lives in Switzerland and owns a small sports chain.

Madeleine, unable to sleep last night, draws a mural on her bedroom wall. Boy, we've been here before but not for several years. Yes, she is testing our boundaries and Sonnet and I put on a stern face while chuckling behind her back. For the record: the drawings are actually pretty good and her threatened punishment, should she not clean things up, is no holiday this week (we will go to the Brecon Beacon in Wales). This gets her attention.

Dizzee Rascal

Paul, Erik and I join an all-white audience to see Dizzie Rascal at the Shepard's Bush Empire last night. It's an intense show that gets people moving and pointing in unison to the beats - Dizzie raps and high-fives the adoring front row. His pants are baggy and crotch at the knees; his kicks are new and his confidence huge. I first became aware of him several years ago while driving HW 101 in California when he was profiled on the BBC World Radio. As for the musician, Dylan Mills was born in 1985 and grew up in London's East End in the South Bow council estate. As a teenager, he was detained for stealing cars and robbing a pizza deliveryman, and expelled from four secondary schools. A sympathetic music teacher introduced him to music production on a school computer. And the rest, as they say, is history. Dizzie Rascal began MCing on pirate radio and at raves at fifteen, but since his mainstream success he has distanced himself from the fledgling scene. He used to be a member of the Roll Deep crew, until a conflict with former friend Wiley, another rapper.

His music is an eclectic mixture of garage and hip-hop beats with broad influences, ranging from metal guitars to found sounds, drill and bass synth lines, eclectic samples and even Japanese court music. His vocal performance is also distinctive, he uses a fast style of rapping which blends elements from garage MCing, conventional rap, grime and ragga. It is fresh. Photo from Matador Records.

You could be a dappa you could be a don but i dont watch your face i dont care where your from"
Dizzee Rascal

Sunday, February 17

Taco Salad

Madeleine at morning swim practice, which would be Saturday 8AM. Sharp. Otherwise yesterday is filled with usual family stuff and not much to write home about (or put into this blog). Moving to the mundane and with regrets, Dear Reader, I take Eitan for a haircut at the Turks then make taco salad for dinner - a recipe from Houston, Texas, via Roger whose mother Genie passed along this classic. Back in the day, Roger and I would go running or whatever in San Francisco then flop down for an afternoon of eating and dozing in front of the T.V. - this before business school and around the time I met Sonnet so circa 1993. Russian dressing is involved and since the Brits don't know such a thing, Sonnet creates the it from her Better Homes and Gardens cookbook ("America's favorite cookbook" since 1958) - who would have guessed the key ingredient is ketchup? With the Russian, multiple prepared ingredients are chucked into a garbage bag with tortilla crisps then crushed about and served. The kids watch bug eyed as I do this then get into the spirit squealng delight. Madeleine crushing away: "This is the best dinner ever!"

Saturday, February 16


Steve Gerber died today at age 60. He's famous for many things but for comic fans it was Howard the Duck in the mid-1970s that caught our attention. Howard was a bit too weird for my tastes as I liked my super heroes manly: Spider Man and the Hulk remain, air sealed, in my parents basement neatly stacked and presumably appreciating in value every day. Can you feel the wealth?

As for Howard, over 27 issues he's firstly abducted from his native world and dropped into the Florida Everglades by the demonic Thog of Overmaster of the dread realm Sominus. Eventually he ends up in Cleveland, Ohio, battling various super villians along the way including Garko the Man-Frog and
vampire cow, Bessie the Hellcow. In his journey, Howard meets the sexy Beverly Switzer and a bizarre series of encounters followed. He battles Pro-Rata, and then Spider Man. He also fights Turnip-Man and the Kidney Lady. He then learns Quak Fu, encounters the Winky Man, becomes a wrestler, and fights an animated Gingerbread Man. After a short time in Cleveland, Howard and Beverly take to the road for New York City, where Howard is nominated for U.S. president by the All-Night Party (pictured) but a doctored-photo scandal leads him to Canada, and the defeat of a supervillain, Le Beaver, who falls to his death. Howard then suffers a nervous breakdown. And so it goes.

"trapped in a world he never made!"
Signature for Howard The Duck comic


I take Madeleine to swimming and we goof around before the pool doors open - pictured. Meanwhile, Eitan on being famous: "It is when you have done something that is really good like painting a picture or writing music." Eitan lost a tooth this week and is now loaded with Tooth Ferry cash - to be spent on football cards for sure. He rubs his hands together anticipating a Joe Cole or Peter Crouch "Man Of The Match." I roll my eyes as this is all he talks about - comparing card values, players and teams. He knows every guy on England and awaits next month's friendly with France: "how many days until the game?" he begs. Our nanny Natasha, not a football fan, will see Chelsea today and I tell Eitan: "she has just gotten a lot more interesting to you." He shrugs in reply "Well besides they're behind Manchester United" which, of course Dear Reader, is his club. And there you have it.

Update: Eitan's savings of £11.52, carried in a sock, are dumped on the counter of the local news agent and 32 packs of trading cards are purchased. He's giddy and actually skips down the block. We bump into a bunch of his school chums on the high street and he shows off his loot to "ooos" and "ahhhhs." At six cards per pack, this should keep him busy for a day or so.

Friday, February 15

Cross The Line

Here we are around the corner on the school run. Eitan is grumpy because his football trading cards are left home - after he cannot get his s*** together to leave the house on-time. Madeleine hates to see her brother cry so she tries to relieve the tension: "Will you take away the T.V. dad? Will you?" His bad vibe continues until I threaten him with no school. He smells a bluff and turns homeward - "fine!" Momentarily flustered, I up the anti handing him the house keys and bidding him good-morning: "keep the place clean for Natasha" I say. This works and Fear Returns. Katie yesterday mentions that she thought I would be a more severe father (assumption: I'm not). The proof positive will be the 'morrow and whether the ship leaves the dock on time. Then we shall see if the battle has been won or temporarily delayed.


Dan, pictured front, is a Columbia Business School pal who retired last year from a $5B hedge fund that he helped build in Minneapolis St-Paul. Now, as far as I can tell from his blog, all he does is bicycle. Er - bike, I mean to say. Dan has always been an intense fellow and now his secret athlete is unleashed. From what I can tell, he has a number of wheelers equipped for each season including today when the temps fall below -20 and the roads icy or closed. He's now working a MN CX 2008, even in February, and chides: "anybody who hates the CX does so because they are slow." Or a loser. Or fat. What would he say about my old Cannondale? I shudder. Dan races all year, sun or snow or worse and I spot a number of trophies and medals across his weblog. Happily he has created a community of wackos who share his passion, compare bike parts and tour the country or Europe. Oh boy, It is a good thing that his wife is interesting. Photo from Dan's blog.

Thursday, February 14

Veggie Valentine

You may not "carrot" all for me the way I care for you.
You may "turnip" your nose
When I plead with you
But if your "heart" should "beet" with mine
Forever "lettuce" hope
There is no reason in the world
Why we two "Cantaloupe."

Sent to me by Katie (photo from the WWW)

My Valentine

Well, after the school drop I go to The Victoria for a dry cappuccino and to read my book. Sonnet joins me on her way home from an appointment - pictured - and we sit around talking kids and &c. We used to make a frequent breakfast at Mayfair favorite The Wolsely but these days I try not to go into town unless necessary. We now miss our fun dates which allowed us to talk outside of the daily routine (has anyone seen Bill Murray's "Groundhog Day"?). Yes, it's an effort to have adult reunions and this morning is a nice way to greet Valentines.

Madeleine has a nightmare and Sonnet lets her sleep on my side of the bed, forcing me eventually to the couch. When I ask her to describe the dream, she breathlessly tells me: "Shark, dad. With a red eye. Coming out of the Thames to grab me. And I couldn't run!" So last night I break the rules and allow Eitan to sleep in her room, which makes both happy (These camp-outs are limited to the week-end). Sonnet disapproves - another sign I've been rolled.

This morning Madeleine lies on the floor reading. I ask if she looks forward to being a teen-ager and she replies positive: "then I can have a pet" she says matter of factly. "But not a goldfish." She is no doubt counting her days and wishes for a pup or a cat.

Wednesday, February 13

Christmas Past

Here I am with Katie on her Upper West Side some time who-knows-when. This time of year I keep my eyes open for discarded Christmas trees - the thought of some poor bugger holding on to the holiday spirit months past the sell-by date is morbidly fascinating. I spotted a brown, dried-out fir in Notting Hill yesterday resting curbside (I sms'd Sonent). The record is late March. It is the same in New York BTW. Perhaps this is a Big City thing: people hiding away not wishing to face the New Year and its stress. Who knows? but it makes me anxious.

The kids have yoga this morning and I enjoy sitting through their class before the morning school bell. I use the time to read and am half way through Lord Jim ("You shall judge of a man by his foes as well as by his friends . . . "). Sonnet has her Fashion Week and complains when she cannot get a seat at the popular shows. I mean, really. She's home late paying witness to the Next Big Thing and I plan to watch "The Haunting" and not the silly remake with Nicole Kidman, mind you (Sonnet refuses to watch anything with even the most mild tension). The '63 film from Shirley Jackson's book remains a horror classic and has scared the bee-Jesus out of a generation of movie fans. It is a rough life indeed.

Monday, February 11

Good Bye, Roy

Roy Schieder, who died yesterday of a rare blood cancer, became famous thanks to the shark - a movie BTW I was not allowed to see in '75 though it was rated "PG" (in 1976 I was allowed to see "Orca," a killer-whale rip-off of Jaws. We were on summer holiday in Ohio). Schieder was a short tough-guy who always seemed genuine. He starred in several favorite films including Klute, The French Connection (which I watched last month) and The Marathon Man.

Appropriate to this photo, Madeleine had a "pool party" Saturday celebrating birthday number six. In attendance are 20 screaming kids who strip into their swim suits and kick and scratch (me) for an hour. And this before the drug surge from chocolate cake laced with bon bon decorations. We survive and Madeleine has a lovely afternoon. Eitan feels dejected but he works it out with hugs from me and mum.

I listen on the radio that we Brits will be charged for our water usage. Is nothing left sacred?

Madeleine happily exclaims: "Fan-tabby-tosa!"

"You're gonna need a bigger boat."
Roy Schieder in Jaws