Sunday, March 5

Eitan Attacks

No weekend is complete without an action-shot so here it is: Eitan heading the ball against RGS Guilford.

Hampton play the semi-finals of the Trinity Cup (an important one, Eitan says), defeating Guilford with a satisfying 2-1 result after being down one goal.  The boys deserve the win having outplayed their opponent - it is often not the way with football. Eitan plays to his strength at center mid-field with flawless execution setting the tone for the come-back win.

Next up : Royal Russell, the best independent school in the country.

TV Berlin

The Fernsehturm, at 368 meters, is the 2nd tallest structure in Europe, a half-meter shorter than the Riga tower in Latvia. But hey - who's competing ? Completed in 1969, Berlin's tower was made to be a symbol to East and West Berlin.

So I am in Berlin last week for the Super Return conference, the largest conference dedicated to private in the world, and 25 meetings with investors. It is a grind but also fun: following the fundraising I know many people here so we catch up on various activities and gossips.

I make sure to visit Berlin's 'museum island' and, this time, it is the Pagomon Museum which owns the world's largest collection of Islamic art, including the Ishtar Gate, which was the 8th gate to the inner city of Babylon, constructed from about 575 BC and excavated in the early 20th century.

While beautiful, Islamic art is void of human representations due to the Islamic believe that the creation of living beings is unique to God, and therefore the role of images and image makers is considered controversial.

The A Squad

Emanuel competes in a field hockey tournament. Maddy is on the A team.

The girls arrive at 45 the night before for an over-night, ostensibly to get a good night sleep before the 7AM ride to the school pick-up (Sonnet reports laughter at 1Am). They are joined by two boys which adds to the gaiety. When I see them together I think : Kids, but Madeleine is confident and mature.  I remind myself what my friends were up to at this age. My eyes are open to it.

Me: "How nice of you to join me and your mother for an adult conversation." [Dad's note: We have dinner together while Eitan studies]
Madeleine: "Yeah, so ?"
Me: "It's taken me 15 years to get here."
Me: "15 years of hard work."
Madeleine: "Gee, thanks Dad."
Me: "You are my masterpiece."
Sonnet: "How do you expect her to talk to us when you tease her like that:"
Me: "One word: Food."
Madeleine rolls her eyes.
Me: "A second word: Allowance."
Madeleine: "I get it, OK ?"
Me: "Kid, you can always count on food and allowance from your Dad. Even when you are 40."
Me: "As long as you talk to us."

New York 90s

Photo from Adam in 1995 taken during the first weeks of my re-location to NYC for the Columbia Business School.

That was a hard transition leaving everything I held dear : family, friends and of course Sonnet. The mountains and blue Pacific and an easy life living at home, running a non-profit I valued and training my ass off for road races and a marathon. I suppose : it needed to be shaken up.

When I arrived in New York (it was 50:50 I would remain, having deferred Columbia for 2 years), I stayed with Christian before finding an apartment suitable for Sonnet and her cat Dominique. Katie was there. Before long, Adam arrived and, with other waylaid Berkeley friends, we spent a brief summer escaping the oppressive heat while hacking around Manhattan : Jogs in Central Park, martinis at MOMA, night clubs, Sheeps Meadow , Long Island beaches and New Years in Soho. It was a wholly unsettled time, too busy to be enjoyed, miserable and yet glorious. And now romantic.

Sunday, February 26

The Nationals

Back straight
The course inside ancient Wollaton Park complete with an Elizabethan mansion and gatehouse. Think Sherwood Forrest and Robin Hood. The course is complicated, starting in an open field that consolidates rapidly onto a narrow mud path covering two loops across flagged open fields, along a swampy crick and through deep sucking puddles. I agitate to compete, ah to be 18 again and injury free.
Post race relief
Madeleine and Eitan in good spirit, each competing towards the mid or upper half of the pack for their age-bracket. The races are 600-700 athletes and a scrum for the first kilometre before the beast widens into the gazellean front-runners followed by everybody else huffing and puffing in various states of concentration and agony.

Afterwards we find a nice family pub that takes dogs before the 2 hour drive home.

Pre Race

We drive the M1 (called, simply, The North) to Nottingham so the kids can compete the English national cross country championships the following morning (Saturday). Here we are pre race carbo loading from what's available at the local restaurant : sausages, bacon and anything fried. I force the kids to eat porridge which I imagine has not been ordered here yet this year or ever.

I find I use my camera less these days. The kids remain good models letting me stick a lens in their face most of the time. They encourage me to keep the blog going for family record and enjoyment while my subject matter narrows : Sonnet and I are in-career so not much drama to report while Eitan and Madeleine have their private lives to tend to. They don't want it splashed on the web. There is always the dog.


Sunday morning with the Stones
Every now and again I get a new band on the Shakespeares - recently it's been 'tennis' and 'Car Seat Headrest', thanks mostly to Christian in LA.  But what has been equally encouraging is their taste in retro 1970s music, dumping the useless 90s and jumping over the cheery synth pop of the 1980s.

I overhear songs by The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Simon & Garfunkel and the Stones floating around the house or played in the car, which makes me smile. The classics only get more classic.

Walking on a public street I sing 'Volaire Oh Oh."
Madeleine: "Oh my God dad."
Me: "What, You don't like Volare ?"
Me: "Given the absurdity of the human experience, singing Volare is hardly going to move the needle."

Sunday, February 19

My Urban Chica

Thames, north side
Having turned 15 this moth, Madeleine continues to experiment with being a teenager. It means swings from clothes, moods, interests and music. All about right. 

Lately she is excited about film and screened Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now, which we discuss over the dinner table. I make a few suggestions ("Coming Home" with Jane Fonda; "Ghost In The Shell" by Kôkaku Kidôtai before ruined by Scarlett Johansson). She covers her room with photos of her friends and places and her walls with rock posters from the 1970s. She has moved from comics to film photography; from insects and bugs to vinyls. 

I embarrass her to death (but can also make her smile or, on occassion, laugh - moments I live for). And she makes me feel my age. Sonnet and I are observers to this next generation. Our youthful complexities are not theirs.

She has become the most interesting human being to me.

Brave New World

Everyone should have one of these
This happy face has greeted me every day for nearly 25 years.

Yesterday we go for a walk in the Surrey Hills initially planned for the family but the kids have other plans: Madeleine with friends, Eitan in the books. Fair enough. So it is me and her and the Dog. Soon it will be like this every day. Woof.

It strikes me that there is a possibility that Madeleine will end up in the US - California! - while Eitan, who is more cautious by nature and likes to have his ducks lined up, could remain in the UK. Does it mean if, one day, we return to America we desert the boy ? It's never going to happen.

Donald Trump is a narcissist, a bankrupt and now a defunct Leader. His cabinet a disaster of billionaire hacks of ideologues or money (or both). The transition painful to observe while the Republicans have no plan for anything. Health care? You poor suckers. Manufacturing jobs ? Sorry, Charlie, it is not about Mexico nor killing free trade. The Wall ? 25 billion spent on this nonsense instead of schools. Russia is celebrating while Trump keeps his Russian secrets. Whatever happened to those tax returns anyway ?

No smugness from the UK as we soon activate Article 50.

Tuesday, February 14

Father Son

The boy and I on Saturday after a x-country race on the Wimbledon common where Eitan finishes 14th of c.60 runners.

I return same morning from California and a busy trip, meeting some large institutional investors interested in Astorg, seeing ancient friends and connecting with others including Barney, a former Nasa scientist who sold his company, Power Set, to Microsoft ten years ago. Barney founded Moon Shot and expects to place a robot on the moon in 2018, carried by the Chinese. His expertise is neural networks and AI, where he is tops in the field.

I also connect with Josh, a GP at Top Class Matrix Partners. Josh and I played poker in London for 7 years or so before he went Big Time and founded Flutter, which merged with Betfair, becoming the largest online gambling site in the world, and now publicly traded. I envy Josh who meets the most interesting people, doing (or trying) extraordinary things, at the centre of the tech universe.

In London, Madeleine and I check out the Paul Nash exhibition at the Tate Modern. I am new to his work, which progressed from WWI to abstract paintings, no doubt in part for what he saw on the battlefield.

Thursday, February 9


I visit Dave at the Oakland School of the Art in downtown Oakland. He is the Jazz Program Director and teaches a couple hundred students to make music. Together. And it's good. Dave's life has waited for this job.

The OSA is straight outa Fame (1982 TV where students at New York's famous High School for the Performing Arts pour their hearts and souls into their training to become stars in their chosen field) . The school founded in 2002 with a mission to provide students with immersive, conservatory-style arts training in a college prep setting. The school curriculum revolves around the concept of integration between academic subjects and the arts. OSA currently serves 700 students in grades 6–12. Most of the kids are from challenged backgrounds yet, at school, it is left at the door.

Sunday, February 5

Tunitas Creek Beach

Moody cliffs
I exit San Francisco to connect on HW1 to return to Tunitas Creek Beach where I was with Madeleine in October. Last time I only had my iPhone to take a photo of this beautiful Pacific landscape; this time I have a proper camera and hang around several hours as the skies clear from heavy rains.

I meet a friendly Dutch couple who recently moved to SF from Minnesota and they are excited to be living The Dream. We discuss various places to visit (easy one : Napa, Yosemite, Point Reyes) and differences to Europe (more open space here; California has it all). They wish me luck on my picture taking and I wish them luck with their lives.

Moe and Grace are doing a fabulous job keeping each other fit and loved. Getting old is hard work but not without its dignity.

California Natives

Tyler and I meet 8AM at the Dolphin Club on the northern end of Fisherman's Wharf and below Ghirardelli Chocolates (last time I was in this spot was 1994 when I ran 59:59 for a 10-mile road race knowing full well at the time it was my shot to break an hour. Another story).

Our aim : to swim, well, in the Bay which is 53 F (13.5 C). I've never been in temps like this - coldest perhaps around 60 in the Pacific in a 3/2 density wet suit.  There are a bunch of swimmers, kooks and enthusiasts huddled in the clubhouse drinking coffee and encouraging each other forward or telling stories of when it was really cold. Tyler, Matt and I tip-toe to the small beach in our swim suits and insulating caps then, without preamble, race into the Bay.

It is f***ing freezing and the shock is agonising. The first 15 minutes I am concerned I will hyper-ventilate or worse. Tyler provides encouragement and security though I am not sure he would be so useful if I seize up and go down.

Then, blissfully, the exertion heats the body, the blood rushes inward to protect some organs and my limbs go comfortably numb. We laugh and chat and float in the sunshine, looking across the water at Alcatraz before returning to shore.

The rest of the day I have a distinct buzz. I can see how it is addictive and could be life changing if done regularly.

Saturday, February 4

St Paul's On A Rainy Day

The Saint Paul's skyline never grows tiresome. 
St P remains the friendly face in the ever changing and rapidly heightening skyline. When we arrived, building codes famously prevented skyscrapers from surpassing the dome nor blocking the views of it. In response, tall buildings were concentrated in The City (the Natwest Tower being the tallest for several decades at 43 floors, standing out like a giant boner) and Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs, which no banking professional loved nor wished to work - though today, there is a young professional community around it.

Now, buildings shoot up like stalks above the moss : the counsels get big development dollars and any resistance, other than a few cranky letters from Prince Charles lambasting Qatar and other gulf funders, is lame. London will never be ghastly Singapore nor wonderful Tokyo, but its cityline does creep into the 21st Century.

I take the jumbo from East Sheen to the North Berkeley Hills in under 13 hours, all in. Remarkable how normal this is.

Friday, February 3

Parent Teacher

Feeling fine
Sonnet and I join Madeleine at Emanuel for Madeleine's teacher reviews on 10 subjects. The reports place our gal at where she needs to be for her 2018 GCSEs. Room to improve but on track for good results.

I sure don't recall meetings with my teachers in high school or, for that matter, in college. Brown assigned us Freshmen an Academic Advisor and mine was  professor Thomas Banchoff, a famous mathematician who was on the cover of Time Magazine two weeks before I arrived on campus. Probably not the best match as he scared the hell out of me. I took his calculus class so it wasn't without trying.

Trumps first two weeks have been as expected. We are getting pounded. To think, China may replace the US as the world's global advocate on free trade.

Sunday, January 29

Ze Tate

A father daughter moment
Madeleine and I check out the Robert Raushenberg retrospective at the Tate Modern. Here is our hero on the train ride home.

For a period of time we lost Eitan to adolescence and today I fear it is Madeleine. I still get the occasional slight smile or even giggle for my jokes but more often then not it is the rolled eyes, or . . silence. I feel for the kid : routine, hard work and no end in sight. What is the payback ? It is for her and us to find out.

Eitan At The Races

Back stretch
Eitan finishes in the middle of the pack and with a good attitude: It is a hard race, run two days after the Middlesex school qualifier, where he places 9th of 60 with the top 6 assured a spot; Eitan is an alternate. Today it is on to football.

Me: "You have a choice. You can pick the museum we go to."
Madeleine: "What ? What's my other choice?"
Me: "I can pick it."

The Calm Before The Storm

Hamstead Heath, -2 degrees
Eitan runs the U17 Southern Cross Country Championships on Hamstead Heath, pictured, and it is like the Somme before the battle. The race start is at the base of Parliament Hill giving us spectators a perfect vantage point, a half mile out and on top of the hill, to watch the huffing and puffing beast heading towards us at a rapid clip.

The course is 7k and unforgiving -  the first kilometre includes the hill and separates the conditioned and natural athletes from the rest; there is really no recovery from the start.

Sonnet returns from a week in Colorado where she has been with Stan. I have duly managed the household without her and pizza delivery only once. Otherwise I fall into a routine without comfort: 6AM dog walk; defrost the car, prep the kids for school nd drive to train station. I keep the evenings free to pick up Eitan and Madeleine from track or other activities then dinner at home, often in front of the TV. Not ideal, but they are working hard.

Me: "Why do you have a bottle of ketchup in your room?"
Madeleine: "No idea."

Sunday, January 22

Winter Day

Back streets
It is one of those dark winter days that casts long shadows. It reminds me of NYC walking around the Bowery or Lower West Side but never California. It is a mood.

Eitan and I go to the Imperial War Museum (his pick, against his will). We catch the Sunday train to Waterloo and walk the 15 minutes across Southwark, greeted by the two 15 inch diameter, 54 foot long naval guns commissioned in 1914 and today posted at the front museum entrance. They saw last action on D Day, sending missiles 16 miles into German occupied France at reasonable precision.

I lose myself in the The Great War while Eitan studies the Holocaust and Cold War period, which he studies in school. Walking home we find a hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant on a shabby Victorian side-street. It is excellent.

Eitan: "How much does a flat cost?"
Me: "In London, depends where, but let's say 800k."
Me: "That means you will have to save 80k for a deposit on a mortgage."
Eitan: "I'm not really sure what that means."
Me: "Well, let's assume you get a good job after uni paying 40k.. ."
Eitan: "How much is that per hour ?"
Me: "It's not really something you calculate. You do a good job, you get 40k. If not, you get fired."
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "So assuming you can save 10k a year, it will take 8 years for the down payment.'
Eitan: "That's a long time."
Me: "Or you could live in some cool cheaper city where young people go like Berlin or Barcelona. I would love to have done that."
Eitan: "And learn Spanish ?"
Me: "You already know it. Or you could go to the United States. There are wonderful cities other than New York. Like Seattle, or LA or Boston. "
Eitan: "I get kind of stressed thinking about leaving. I would never see my friends again."
Me: "You guys have media that I didn't at your age. You can stay in touch with them."
Eitan: "I think once I leave, I will never come back."
Me: "It might be the case. It is all part of life."

Pussy Power

Grosvenor Square
I join college friend Katy for the Women's March which is also a de facto protest against The Clown and all he stands for. Katie joins the walk in Washington DC, which attracts something like 500,000 people while London it is 100,000 (Madeleine unable to join given a hill session in Richmond Park).

It is freezing at Grosvenor Square where the march begins but nobody complaining and the vibe is good, if defiant. We stand about for an hour waiting to .. walk. The female: male ratio is 6 or 7 to 1 by my estimate. I have never been surrounded by so many women demanding their reproductive and sexual rights which makes me think: none of these folks went to Brown. And its corollary: I went to the wrong college.

Our walk accompanied by chanting, the inevitable Caribbean drums, bands and encouragement along the way. It is a powerful tour de force. Will it create momentum or be swept away by current events?

Sunday, January 8

Surrey XC Champs

Madeleine and Rebecca compete
Madeleine competes the Surrey Cross Country championships. It's a hilly 4k course and Madeleine battles the mud and elements valiantly, finishing in the middle of the pack (60 girls in here age bracket). Eitan out with the flu.

I join Dave and Tabitha and their family in Bath for their Twelfth Night party, which Tab has been hosting for 29 years. Sonnet and I first joined in 2001. Our families met in Maida Vale when the women pregnant with Eitan and Neta.

At the party I always meet a bunch of interesting people and this year re-connect with Holly, a fire-cracker who founded the Bath Film Festival. Holly a feminist who created the F Rating which rates films based on female participation (Director, production, actors ) which is now used by 40 organisations including the BAFTA in the UK. Holly did a TED ex talk on it in November.

Thursday, January 5

Cold Mornings

Rusty smells a deer
The dog, for his part, never misses the opportunity to roll around in deer shit.

The hard shock of post-holiday re-entry is now behind us. At least, for those who bit the bullet and went back to work early. 

The Christmas trees begin to line the streets. Every year I "call" the last one with a text to Sonnet : ie, the final hold-outs of the holiday season. The record is mid March.

Madeleine up at 6:30AM in a chipper mood and ready to take on physics at the morning bell. Her first exam in the New Year.

Wednesday, January 4

A Day At The Office

Madeleine cranks out the physics
Madeleine joins me at work to do some studying. It seems like a good idea until I have to wake her at 8:30AM and am reminded, dear reader, that teenagers live by a different rhythm.

The resentfulness lasts until late morning while I earn a few lines of conversation for lunch - her favourite, sushi.  Shopping establishes further goodwill until the commute home, when we split so she can visit friends in Wimbledon.

She is utterly charming with my colleagues.

Madeleine: "Your work friends seem pretty posh."

The Jets

West Side Story is a hit
The photo a bit late, but here is Eitan from the October production of West Side Story. 

The boy made significant sacrifices of football practice and matches to ensure his performance of Pepe was well delivered. And it was.

Sonnet and I most delighted by Eitan's willingness to take on something outside the comfort zone. The production complex with choreographed set pieces and singing. Eitan had a few lines, too.

Monday, January 2

A Year In Review

Self portrait XXXXX

Eitan 16

Eitan is a fine young man
Today, setting the tone on the first working Monday of 2017, Britain takes a bank holiday. I roll with it.

Madeleine and I head to the pool to swim laps, me with flippers to work on stroke technique. Swimming truly is the best middle-age exercise but for the nuisance of it all. If I had a decent pool nearby, preferably outdoor, I would be a changed man.

Sonnet goes into post-holiday action, unleashing 2 weeks of building tension: tree stripped and hauled outside. Check. Christmas decorations to attic. Check. Refrigerator defrosted, house scrubbed and aired, shelves re-organised. Check and double check.

Tomorrow it is back to official work.

Sunday, January 1

A New Year

11th episode in a row
The New Year rolls in .. and rolls out. I pick up Eitan and three girls at a party in Teddington, then Madeleine and Wills at a party in Wimbledon.  All in, two hours of driving but who's complaining ? It's a window into the Shakespeares lives though, last night anyway, the pay load is minimal. It's 1AM and the kids too tired to banter.

Seeing out the New Year, Sonnet and I start on "The Good Wife", a cable series about a woman who returns to lawyering after her cheating husband in jail for scandal. I bail after three episodes but Sonnet watches an entire series in 24 hours.

Me, over dinner: "Your mom is really into The Good Wife."
Sonnet: "It is rather addictive."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "She's watched 11 hours of television."
Sonnet: "Last year we listened to War & Peace on the BBC."
Me: "And she's wearing her pajamas.  It's 6 O'Clock. Next thing you know she's going to have a second piece of pizza and ice cream for desert."
Eitan: "What's wrong with that?"
Me: "This is your mother we're talking about."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "She's on the edge."

Saturday, December 31

Jeff And Grace

Following 16 weeks, Gracie's chemo is over and done with. Good riddance.

Next week Gracie will have a mold made for the radiation treatment. The mold keeps her body in place at the same angle while they zap her with radiation.. Starting in February, she will have six weeks of daily treatments. The hard bit, however, is behind us and we may

Celebrate !

Of course I select a photo of her and me for this blog - it is taken at my parents' 25th wedding anniversary celebration at the Brazil Room in Tilden Park, Berkeley. That would be so 1987.

Trump Loves Putin

The path is dark
Even my neo-con friends are scratching their heads over Trump's jerk-off of Vladimir Putin. No Reagan-Brezhnev kiss to the lips is this.  The CIA presents evidence that Russia hacked the DNC website and may have thrown the US Presidential elections and Trump tweets, "Let's move on." WTF ? 

Where is the anger over Mitch McConnell blocking the Supreme Court nomination ? The outright lying and skullduggery by Trump during the election year backed up whole-heartedly by his party ? The 'Lock her up' and now a cabinet of the most unqualified white people one can imagine ? OK, Ben Carson is black but what does he know about housing ? Enough to let Trump in the door to buy the properties once Carson de-funds the program. The wolf is at the door.

I suppose the anger is there and reflected by the elections. But what happens when the voters realise they have been conned ? The appeasement via the political process may have reached its end I fear.

Friday, December 30

Good Bye Katie

Katie is a good vibe
We say our sad farewells to Katie and I drive my sister to the airport. It was too brief a visit and a wonderful holiday gift to be together.

As I watch Katie disappear into the gate, I walk over to a Cafe Nero in Terminal 2 to do some work. A bit weird, I admit, but it is a chill and friendly cafe which I pass frequently on my way to somewhere so today - I sit. Tapping away on my notebook, I overhear conversations from different pre-boarders : the three teenage girls who giggle about who's cute and how often they change their pants (not enough); the foreign exchange student who talks America with her British hosts; the security guards who talk about their year-end bonus.

Madeleine searches the charity shops for vinyls and returns home with Lenard Skynyrd, Tears For Fears and John Cougar Mallencamp for 1 quid each. She is ecstatic with her records, which sound excellent on her turntable. And I was concerned her collection would turn into a money-suck; instead, it is a lesson on how to find value.

Frozen Sunrise

Two Storm Wood
A freezing fog settles over Richmond Park as the temperatures nestle at -2 degrees. Enough to freeze one's fingers inside a glove.

Madeleine and I leave the grocery store.
Madeleine: "OMG Dad. Do you have to do that?"
Me: "What?" [Dad's note: I use the grocery bags as barbells].
Madeleine: "That. Everybody's looking."
Me: "No they're not. And if they were - so what."
Madeleine: "I am not walking with you. Please walk ahead." [Dad's note: I do some squats at the intersection].
Me: "Don't you want me to be healthy?"
Madeleine: "I want you to be a block away."

Thursday, December 29

A Strong Woman

Pembroke Lodge parking lot
Sonnet after the Parkrun race in Richmond Park.
I also run the 5K course in a time of 22:10 hurting all the way. Sonnet reminds that I am out of shape, have not raced in a year and (dread of dreads) turning 50 next year. OK, the last one was mine, but still : the salad days are behind me.
My running came together for five years between 27 and 32 or 33. During this time I could train (Help The World See and b school) and I knew how to run (relaxation equals speed). I completed a half-marathon in 1:16, broke an hour for the 10-mile and clocked 36 minutes on a 10k around Lake Merritt, Oakland. By the mid-30s the miles caught up and the injuries settled in to stay. Sonnet, however, inspires having run a PB last month in the 10K.
But the point of my blog : Sonnet keeps the household together during the long holiday season and always. Her presence is calming and something I value and I rely on. There is no one I enjoy talking to more. And she is more beautiful than the day I met her, June 5, 1993.

Wednesday, December 28


The mother and child reunion
Zakkai will also take the GCSEs in 2017. He is focusing on the sciences and will likely study mathematics and philosophy in university. He is also Scarecrow in his school's production of 'The Wizard of Oz' and recently selected to play in an Oxford production of Romeo and Juliet.  Mostly he's a confident and engaged kid who does not seem overly pressurised by his future. 

When we last saw Zebulon (Zakkai's older brother) he was finishing his A-Levels, having scored 12 A* on his GCSEs (perfect). He now awaits the decision from Cambridge to study computer sciences. He has already been accepted to Imperial College and others, but Cambridge is where he wants to be. Zebulon bides the time writing an algorithm to observe how viruses spread from mosquito to the human population. 

Alain, moving on from the famous eigenstrains, is set to publish his book "The Mathematics and Mechanics of Biological Growth" which can be pre-ordered on Amazon for Gbp 100. He hopes to make it required reading for his graduate students.

We circle the table discussing goals for 2017. Mine: finish Game Of Throwns and meditate.

A Dog's Life

No 1 dog in England
I meet Ben West who is tending his sheep. We strike up a conversation about his border collie, a dog that responds to the whistle and keeps the 60 odd sheep whole.  

A couple months ago I was on an estate outside Amsterdam and observed the world champion border collie in action - a remarkable animal, selected by its master for an enthusiasm for sheep. It's all the dog thinks of, sheep. And herding them. Any damn dog can be smart. It's passion one looks for.

So it turns out that Ben and his dog were No. 1 in the England sheep dog competitions in 2012 and he is on his way to Amsterdam to compete in the world championships next month. 

Funny what one learns when one talks to somebody, anybody.

Ancient Forrests

Spooky woods
We are in the lovely lull between Christmas and the New Year when the only thing to do is go with the flow. Nobody answers emails. Shops are mostly closed. London is cold and a good book beckons. As I read "A Song Of Fire And Ice", all five volumes at c.800 pages each, I have a week before work becomes a distraction.

We drive to Oxford to walk the Wytham Woods, an area of ancient woodlands owned by Oxford and used for environmental research. The woods were bequeathed the university in 1942 by the ffennel family, after the death of their lonely daughter, Hazel, for their upkeep, study and educational use. There are over 500 species of vascular plants and 800 species of butterflies and moths here.

Wytham is one of the most researched woodlands in the world from birds to badgers and, more recently, the impacts of climate change.

‘Let this wretched year come to an end.’
--George R.R. Martin summarises 2016

Katie In Oxfordshire

Tuesday, December 27

Rogue One

Gracie and Maggie
Gracie has her last chemo session today, something we have been waiting for since September and are so very grateful it is almost over. 

We spend Boxing Day at the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, then - at home - we watch the original, which is far superior to the prequels and sequels. I point this out to Simon and his son Michael, who are off to catch the 1927 five hour silent film 'Napoléon' showing at the London Film Institute. Can't really compete with that.

Monday, December 26

Don't Fear The Reaper

Prince, David Bowie, Maurice White (Earth, Wind and Fire), Lenard Cohen, Paul Katner (Jefferson Airplane), Glenn Fry (The Eagles), Phife Dawg (Tribe Called Quest), Merle Haggard (country music legend) and now George Michael.  Our icans leave us, and most in the prime of their lives or, at least, before 60.

1987 was the year of Michael's 'Faith' and it was unmissable especially if a sophomore in college. Funk Nights at Brown grooved to his pop, as did the discotheques in Manhattan and San Francisco where I sometimes went. His raw style - those ripped jeans and urban boots ! The sunglasses and hair ! - had a most profound impact, even if not fully credited to GM. From Each Finchley, London, he reached full scale in America.

Mike, the federal judge and lifelong friend who married me and Sonnet, once informed: "your 50s are the killing fields", as life's poor living choices come home to roost. In this decade, which I will soon enter, death is unexpected and mortality still in reach. Smoking, booze, drugs and fast food diets and just living mow the unfortunate down early.

Brexit Encore

Shell shocked
Of the Big Decisions impacting my life this year I am 0 for 3: Heathrow Third Runway, Brexit and Trump.  A Gbp 1000 bet on all three occurring would have won over a mil. I believe it: only H3 seemed possible given the craven nature of the Tory government and a need for more jumbos, no matter how pollutive and disruptive to the millions of us underneath. But Trump ? (I immediately cancelled my twitter account).

The worst of the three however, Brexit, will take one generation to succeed, similar to the post Second World War period, with over 30,000 civil servants to be focused on renegotiating some 240 post war treaties which each took, on average, 7 years to sign. It will effect an aeon.

To look at the currency collapse or minor econ bumps/ slowdowns is foolhardy; long-term, we will see a decline of London's influence as global banks shift to the continent for access to the trading block while other services, like currency clearing houses, move to Frankfurt. The young, hungry and educated will find their opportunities elsewhere.  I would have.

London, dear reader, exports over £25b of wealth py to the rest of the country (compare this to Paris, which absorbs France's income) and the Southeast accounts for Britain's growth. Messing with the engine is dangerous and, at a minimum, the jewel of the crown will become less .. interesting.

Boxing Day Peace

Madeleine reads 'Hotel New Hampshire' by John Irving
We are re-doing the interior of our house - new floors installed, pictured, and now it is on to the other stuff like bathrooms, painting and the upstairs. Rusty has already raised a leg to Madeleine's newly laid carpet. If we did not love the pooch so, he would be in a potato sack at the bottom of the Thames.

Christmas 2016 has come. And gone. The Big Gifts this year were a virtual reality head-set (Eitan) and a record player and some vinyls (Madeleine). A new record btw costs £22, far different from the affordable disks I once bought on Telegraph Ave at Rather Ripped Records and Rasputin's for five bucks each. Ah, what a joy to lose oneself for hours flipping through the stacks, years before CDs killed the album cover and the feelings they inspired in us kids.  Then hitting Comics And Comics and Blondie's Pizza for a Coke and a slice for the walk across the Berkeley Campus and home. Allowance well spent.

But I digress.

The gift to the whole family is Katie. Pretty cool to have a younger sister. Who lives in Manhattan. Who has founded a business transforming how ideas circulate in media and is influencing media.

Sunday, December 25

(Spider) Web

A tree by our house
It has been a busy year that is now drawing to a close. Katie arrived two days ago to spend Christmas with us. She is a wonder with her nephew and niece, making them laugh, talk and think in a way Sonnet and I can't touch in our routine conversations. 

Eitan revises for his mock exams in January then the real thing, the long-anticipated GCSEs, in April-May. Madeleine studies for January exams as well.  

Yes, there is a lot to be thankful for, even 2016, a year of populism, racism, sexism, exit-ism, anti-semitism, Trumpism,  plagiarism, voter fraud and general treachery. The jackels are back in power and we, the people, without Hunter S Thompson or Alex Cockburn to shine a light on what will certainly be the most corrupt administration to ever hold High Office in America. Those who voted for the man will surely be punished for it (Health Insurance ? Blue collar jobs ? Transparency and freedom ? Good bye to all that). None of us will be the better for it.

Day Trippers

Madeleine, Alphie, Eitan, Fred and Shaheen
It's a motley crew, no doubt, but they do return within 15 minutes of the instructed 7:15PM meeting time. Madeleine reports that she and Alphie explored Paris by foot but mostly in the marais getting there along the Seine. Eitan - well, who knows ? - but the boys seemed to have had a great time.  

It is a pleasure to be around this group. Friendly and polite to other people and adults almost to a fault yet wrapped up in their own world of interests and insults and things that young people do.

Me: "What's the name of the train station?"
Eitan: "Umm .."
Me: "Alphie, what's the name of the train station?"
Me: "Ok, its Gare du Nord. This is where we are meeting this evening. Each of you say it."
Eitan: "We get it Dad."
Me to Shaheen: "Train station?"
Shaheen: "Gare du Nord."
Me to Fred: "Train station?"
Shaheen: "Gare du Nord."
Me to Alphie: "Where are we meeting tonight?"
Alphie: "Gare du Nord."
Me: "You have my mobile. Call me from the police station."
Madeleine: "Ha-ha-ha, Dad."

The Curators

Gare du Nord
Sonnet and Oriel were in the same program at the Courtauld Art Institute, studying the history of European costume and dress, taught by the formidable Dr Eileen Ribeiro, some 18 years ago. Both are curators at the V&A.

Sonnet, with the help of the Op-Ed project, has an opinion - with photo - published in the New York Times addressing the failure of the world's biggest museums to hire women at the top. Same for the V&A where 75% of the curators are women. Her piece timely as the V&A searching for a new Director while the Chairman tells me, "we cannot get women to apply for the job."

"LONDON — The directors of two of the world’s most popular art museums recently announced their resignations. Martin Roth, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, will step down this year, and Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate museums, both in Britain, will depart next year. These job vacancies, which search committees are now working to fill, offer an opportunity to correct the gender imbalance in art museum leadership in Britain, America and beyond.

In 2015, the world’s top 12 art museums as based on attendance — what I call the “directors’ dozen” — were all led by men. When Frances Morris became the director of the Tate Modern in April, she became the first woman to join the club. This gender gap extends from Europe to North America, where only five of the 33 directors of the most prominent museums (those with operating budgets of more than $20 million) are women, including Kaywin Feldman of the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Nathalie Bondil of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It’s the leaders of those big-budget institutions who set the tone for all. "
--Sonnet Stanfill, NYT, extract, October 19, 2016

Paris Train

Fred sleeps on the Eurostar
Sonnet visits a donor in Paris so the gang heads for St Pancras, 5:30AM, for a Day Trip. Joining Madeleine is Alphie, who is into photography and film, which is influencing our little darling in a most wonderful way: Madeleine now shooing film with my ancient Pentax SuperME camera.  Eitan joined by Shaheen and Fred, who is a music scholar at Hampton. Three peas in a pod.

In Paris, I hand each kid 6 metro tickets, a bunch of Euros for emergency, and tell them to be at Gare du Nord at 7:15Pm. I watch them scramble into the crowd, then turn around and head for the office.

Me to Alphie: "I like your hair cut kid."
Madeleine: "Dad why do you always have to be so embarrassing."
Me: "What? It's cool. Clipped on the side, long on top. Believe it or not, it is how we used to wear our hair back in the days before the mobile phone and the automobile."
Alphie: "Thank you Mr Orenstein."
Madeleine: "They so had cars when you were my age."
Me: "We went to this hair salon called Peter Thomas on Shattuck. A bunch of my friends got free haircuts in return for modelling."
Madeleine, Alphie:
Me: "Funny what you remember like it was yesterday."

Astorg Gold And Silver

A few colleagues
I catch up on my blog. 

Earlier this month Astog is selected the No. 1 middle-market buyout firm in Europe while the Eur 2.1 billion Astorg VI, which closed June 30, takes 2nd place in the fundraising category (yours, truly, gave up a few lives on that one) by PE Exchange, representing some 1200 institutional investors. It is peer recognition for a team that works hard, shows up every day, and delivers results.

I tell Charles-Hubert (far left) not to put the trophy in his bedroom, like he did last year.  Sometimes I wonder if the French get, or even appreciate, my sense of humour. Other times I wonder if I push it too far .

An Astorg Christmas

The London office
The London office celebrates at a Peruvian lunch in Mayfair. My commitment to an alcohol light afternoon discarded by 3PM with the evening ending at 10PM. As I tell Michael, a new German colleague and the guy in front in red sweater, in the taxi home: "What happens in Frankfurt stays in Frankfurt." On point, I am not sure what it means or if it is clever.

Madeleine: "I want to go to Hawaii. For vacation."
Me: "Yep. Only trouble is you might never come back."
Madeleine: "It would be so nice."
Me: "You might toss out your UK passport right there."
Madeleine: "And then I would go to California."
Me: "The beauty of it is - you can, no problem."
Madeleine: "All my friends are talking about going to America and I can just do it."
Me: "And you don't have to work or get married."
Madeleine: "Married?"
Me: "So you can live in the states without a visa."
Me: "If any of your friends were to come to me and ask for your hand. .."
Me: "I would be like, no problem. She's a live one."
Madeleine: "You would not."
Me: "Only don't come to me for money."
Madeleine: "Gee, thanks Dad."
Me: "I expect you'll be living with us. Isn't it enough?"
Madeleine: "Can we talk to mom now ?"