Sunday, September 10

Los Angeles

Christian meets me and Madeleine at LAX.
Christian and Lisa 'hosted' our equipment in their garage for six months as I notch my checklist from Patagonia and REI. 
So freely did I spend at REI that I created a useful currency unit: 1 REI equals $500. 

JMT Pre Planning

Guy and food for 24 days.
On Guy and the John Muir Trail: He completed the JMT in 2003 with his son Jacobus and wrote a book about the experience, pictured. Guy opened my mind to the idea of the adventure, which I have been thinking about for ten years and planning for about a year. Prior to the trip he provides advise and share some notes; Jeanine gives me a zip-bag of homeotherapies covering spider bites to altitude sickness.
Guy is as close a thing to Yosemite Sam as I will ever know. He is inspiring.

Photos From The Summer I

Jasper and last morning, pre departure.

Monday, July 10

ACL Repair

Eitan pre-ops
Eitan is in good hands with Dr Bell, who specialises in knee surgery and has repaired over 1000 ACLs. While it is a serious procedure - Eitan will be under anaesthetics - it is also a routine practice.

Dr Bell reports that the surgery was "completely straightforward". The boy will remain in hospital for one night and home tomorrow.

Sonnet is with him this week.

Sunday, July 9

Go'n To Buffalo

Madeleine receives her final instructions from Sonnet (somehow the dog is always in these moments). She catches a mid-day plane to Toronto with her 60L Gregory Pack stuffed for Buffalo and the JMT (I have gotten to calling her backpack "the house' as in 'you're going to be living in it for the next six weeks').

Madeleine for her part is used to the long-haul flights. She and Eitan went together sans us from Denver to London via JFK when they were 12 and 13.

On the other side will be uncle Marcus to greet her.

Tomorrow she begins her volunteer work the community garden.

The Crew BBQ

Madeleine has some friends over on a lovely Saturday evening. They are all laughter and politeness but we know what's really going on. Sonnet and I weren't born yesterday.

Emily and Lawton are with us for several nights, returning from Munich and other stops in Europe.

Both head for their freshman year at UNC in autumn and full of excitement and admissions stories (enough to freak out Sonnet). Their father, Brad, is the Vice Chancellor of Campus Enterprises and I suggest to Emily and Lawton that they should expect good service (eye roll please, but too polite).

The kids picked up for their flight 5AM Friday which does not stop them from seeing friends until 3AM Friday morning (now it is my/ Sonnet's turn to roll eyes).

I take the dog for a 3 hour hike in Richmond Park which otherwise takes c.60 minutes running and 30 minutes on a bike. Countdown JMT.

Sunday, July 2

Cool Yuf

Bella and Lola hang out with Johnny Depp, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga in el lay.

Madeleine and I watch the women's 400m finals of the British Athletics Team Trials on the BBC.
Madeleine: "Why are they crying?"
Me: "It's emotional. Women cry."
Madeleine: "Great Dad."
Me: "How the heck should I know ? They're your age. You're a runner. And they're women. So you tell me: Why are they crying?"
Madeleine: "It's emotional. Women cry."

Portobello Market

Our first years in London, in Maida Vale W9, a Saturday morning routine included friends (or solo) at Lisboa, a Portuguese bakery on Golborne Road, for coffee, followed by the Portobello market and a search for groovy purchases (me, chords and the occasional age-inappropriate jacket; Sonnet, silver or household items).

On the Kensal Town side, Portobello is a flea market on steroids - stalls selling ancient tools, books, ceramics, table ware, junk - and a colourful neighbourhood that is still working class though seriously gentrified since we first came here (Look over there! (Where?) Here comes Jeanie with her new boyfriend).

The road connects into Notting Hill and becomes densely crowded with high and very-high end shops where one may find Rolexes and antiques. I bought my Yashika Mat dual lens box camera here which is now in Madeleine's room; it is a marvelous camera but the medium format film renders it impractical.

Eitan (in the crowded market): "What's my budget?"
Me: "Well, how much money do you have?"
Eitan: "I thought you were going to give us some money."
Me: "Tell you what. You say 'I love you Dad' and I will give you twenty pounds."
Me: "Easy money. 'I love you Dad.'"
Eitan: "I am not going to say that here."
Me: "Ok no money."
Eitan, whispering: "I love you Dad."
Me, loudly: "What ? Can't here you."
Eitan: "I love you Dad."
Me: "Here's twenty pounds."
Madeleine: "I love you Dad!"

LA Cousins

Erno Goldfinger lives on
Brook, Sonnet's cousin from Silver's side, joins us for five days on the way to a wedding in Greece. With her are Bella and Lola, second cousins to Eitan and Madeleine, and almost exactly the same age.

The crew otherwise live the California dream, not far from the Pacific, and the girls surf the Pacific waves. The kids instantly comfortable with each other and settle into a marathon of Harry Potter movies. Madeleine was to join them this summer but instead will hike the JMT.

From where I sit, they could not be more cool.

Saturday, July 1

Mr Blue Skies

It's flat
Another day, another skyline. This time it is Amsterdam.

Eitan and I have dinner at The Wolseley on a Friday night mano a mano. I order a vodka martini with a twist ("Nice", he says) and him a beer which he nurses two-thirds of the way. We order the same: wiener schnitzel, steamed spinach and fries. Classic.

Eitan is keen to ask questions about what I do, what investment means and how Astorg goes about it. He's decided to concentrate his A Levels (lower and upper Sixth Form begin September - serious stuff) on the humanities including English literature, history, Spanish and politics. Hard to imagine but the boy may never take another math course, unless he selects to do so outside school. We discuss its implication for business as Eitan (I sense) wants to do it.

Unlike the US, where one can faff about in the liberal arts until deciding junior year of college to study economics (OK, me). These Brit kids must decide their interest - and future - at age 16. Who knows what the hell he's going to do for life at this age? Eitan, for his part, doesn't have much fixed beyond the summer (which will be spent recovering from an ACL operation).

That said, Eitan continues to explore and while he won't go to soccer camps and the JMT over the break, he has signed up for piano and guitar lessons, wants to learn bridge and is looking into a few summer business course. Hard to do without any planned structure (the ACL disrupting Sonnet's to-the-hour planning) but we are rolling with it.

Madeleine, from the back seat, in heavy traffic: "Mom just texted and asked where we are and why we are so late." 
Me: "Tell her we went to the mall and we'll meet her when we're done."
Madeleine: "You don't really want me to say that do you Dad?"
Madeleine: "Yep."

Sunday, June 25

Hiking Days

Me and the little g. We are on the clock for the JMT.

We join Ben and his family for Ben's bar mitzvah in St John's Wood, which the boy delivers without breaking a sweat, Torah and all. Ben's grandfather, who is seated a few seats from me, is a Founder of Israel. It is an important day.

In the evening there is a party with speeches and dancing with many close friends (A few jokes come in suggesting that I shouln't overdue it given that I am now 50. Jokes not lovingly received).  I am seated at a young table, across from Sonnet, and similar to Bath last weekend, I get to observe my beautiful wife.

Madeleine and I go to a Shepperton to do some open air lake swimming. It is Madeleine's first time.
Me to the agent: "Two adults to swim please."
Agent: "How old is she?"
Me: "15."
Agent: "She can't swim. It is for 16 and older."
Me: "She turns 16 tomorrow ."
Agent: "So come back tomorrow."
Madeleine: "Nice one Dad."
Me: "Well, I tried kid."
Madeleine: "You should just say 16 all the time."
Me: "True dat."
Madeleine: "Oh my God."

Saturday, June 24

Viva La Suisse

I am in Zurich and ask the hotel concierge for swimming pool recommendation to swim some laps. He suggrests I swim in the nearby lake and so I think: why not? I don't have my trainers so I exit the hotel in the white hotel slippers and a towel slung over my shoulder, goggles on my head, and cross the busy road alongside lake Zurich and, for lack of an obvious gateway into the water, I dump my stuff on a bench and go for it. At 50, I am allowed a little eccentricity.

Madeleine, at my request, waters the front yard plants.
Me: "Why such a dour look ? Is it really that bad?"
Madeleine: "Then why don't you do it then?"
Me: "You're going to be working all your life kid. Better start getting used to it."
Madeleine: "Gee, Dad, is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Me: "If you love your work then it isn't work is it?"
Me: "You'll be like living in some appartment with your friends or a guy and maybe, if you're lucky, one day you will have a job that you enjoy."
Madeleine: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "And you will be like, "Dad, you can stop paying my allowance now."
Madeleine: "It's not that funny Dad."

Tuesday, June 20


Sonnet and I drive to the South Downs so I can swim in the sea (about 18 degrees - nothing like the Bay at 13). Before the swim, we hike the downs. It's a good practise run for the JMT with steep hills; my backpacks contains c.30 lbs of canned beans and peanut butter to mimic the load.

The South Downs are a range of chalk hills that extends for about 260 square miles across the south-eastern England, characterised by rolling chalk downland with close-cropped turf and dry valleys. They are recognised as one of the most important chalk landscapes in England, and is one of the four main areas of chalk downland in Southern England.

The dog eats half of Eitan's chocolate birthday cake.

A Brave New World

Self portrait XXXXXIII
And in a wink I am 50.

So, I am asked, how does it feel?

It has not been an easy ride to get here - a bunch of crummy years working at an investment bank, a hard adjustment to London, a start-up tech company that did not make a billion nor a million bucks and no sub-three hour marathon. Cal has not been to a Rose Bowl in my lifetime.

But here I am now, with a couple of healthy teenagers, a loving wife who I love and work that sustains me.  An extended family and friends that I cherish, and an ability to see them every now and then. A few good stories that are re-told on a good evening. My demons, for the time being, at bay.

Life is interesting. I am happy.

@Madeleine: I am not getting a tattoo.

Sunday, June 18

The Hope Ball

A beautiful smile
Sonnet and I are in Bath for The Hope Ball, a fundraising event to build a state-of-the-art Cancer Center in Bath, arranged by our friend Tabitha.

The Champagne black-tie affair is held under an open tent on the lawn of the Royal Crescent, overlooking the city, on a beautiful warm summer's evening. It reminds me of Campus Dance at Brown, held each year in late May around the college graduation.

Friends And More Friends

Madeleine Saturday morning
Me: "How are you doing these days kid?"
Madeleine: "Three more weeks of school."
Me: "But you love school, right ?"
Madeleine: "It's school Dad."
Me: "What would you do if not school?"
Me: "Get up in the morning. Come downstairs. Have breakfast. Watch an episode of Friends. And another episode of Friends. And another episode of Friends and. . "
Madeline: "Alright I get it Dad."
Me: "And another episode of Friends. And another episode of Friends. .."
Me: "And another episode of Friends. And another episode of Friends . .."
Madeleine: "Having fun, are we Dad ?"
Me: "Always."


On to the A Levels
Eitan finishes his last GCSE exam - physics - and just like that the GCSEs are done. Results will be posted in August.

Eitan has some friends over and spends the rest of the weekend sleeping.

Sonnet and I could not be more proud of his comportment throughout the exam period and, of course, his hard work.

Sunday, June 11

Braids In Her Hair

Me and Madeleine at her favourite, Pickle And Rye
My week ends up in Phillie following Boston and Baltimore. Nice weather follows me along.

Me to Nathaniel (Madeleine's guest): "How much would you expect to be paid for the garden work?"
Nathaniel: "Huh?"
Madeleine whispers: "You don't have to do it. Don't say anything."
Me: "Rake leaves. Bag them. Tidy up."
Nathanial: "Just the back ?"
Me: "Front and back."
Nathanial: "By the hour ?"
Madeleine flashes 10 fingers.
Me: "By the job. Madeleine just poisoned the waters."
Madeleine, facing the refrigerator: "How long do I have to stand here? You can stop staring at me."
Nathaniel: "I'd say 30 pounds."
Madeleine: "Yesss."

Knee's Out

Special care
Eitan throws out his ACL playing a scratch game of football following one of his GCSE exams. It scuppers two soccer camps and the John Muir Trail but in the grand scheme of things it is small beer.

Eitan has two remaining GCSEs - physics and chemistry. No letting up until the very end.

Emmanuel Macron pulls off a majority for his party from a stand-still one year ago: 440 of 577 seats in the national assembly. He crushes the other parties - raising the question around the opposition. Marion Le Pen's party, the right-wing populist National Front, despite Le Pen winning 40 pc of popular vote in the recent election, will have 4 seats.

Teresa May brings back Michael Gove. Recall the Brexiteer back-stabbed Boris to get into No. 10 and May fired him.

We live in interesting times (I once viewed this comment with an orientation towards optimism).


The past is back to say 'hello'
So this is Sarah, who I did not recognise on the 85th Street subway platform. Katie does.

Sarah my first girlfriend in the 7th grade made so by a faithful one-sentence telephone call: "Will you go with me?" She agreed and I hung up. In fact, I did not have much else to say for the six weeks we were 'together' until the inevitable 'Lets just be friends' letter arrived in my locker.

The thing about being 12, no boy has anything interesting to say to a girl. The only thing on his mind is football or his comic book collection and the after-school candy bar selection.

Sarah was developed in every way, well ahead of the rest of the crowd. She never got a B in junior high or high school nor college (Williams). She was head of the Columbia University literature department until promoted Dean of Humanities. What the hell was I going to add to that ?

Sarah and I agree to have a drink next time I am in Manhattan. There is 38 years to catch up and all of 7th grade.

Taipei - London - New York

Sonnet shows off the VA
Sonnet with Hyunju, who we meet for a coffee before Hyunju visits the Pink Floyd exhibition. Hyunji's family offices control one-third of Taiwan including owning the largest insurance company and the country's mobile network.

In New York, Katie and I go to Barney Greengrass "The Sturgeon King" on the Upper West side for some Jewish comfort food. Roger and I once went here when we lived on 85th and Columbus in an apartment that reflected our stage of life. No money but long on youth.

From matzo ball soup, we go for Korean massages and a pedicure followed by Smith & Wollensky's for a steak dinner.  It's kinda Soprano's style. Katie returns from Providence where she has signed Brown University as a new client.

“I can definitely say the president is not a liar. I think it’s frankly insulting that that question would be asked.”
--The White House

KKR's Offices

It's like flying
I'm on the Eastern Seaboard last week for meetings. It feels like I am following Donald Trump around the globe.

Of course former FBI guy James Comey testifies before Congress and flat out calls the President a God damn liar, which Trump denies and calls Comey a God damn liar and says he will say so under oath. As if, Mr President.

Who could have thought the Republicans could cough up a hair ball worse than George Bush Junior ?

My opinion aside, 40% of Americans think Trump is doing a swell job, sticking it to The Man, feeling their rage. Too bad these same people will lose their health care, get fleeced by Wall Street and special interests (so long, Dodd Frank), see their food stamps and benefits shrivel to the size of their scrotum, the poor bastards. Why should I care, really ?

But let's not forget the UK's hubris : Theresa May gets walloped by Jeremy Corbyn who is looking, well, rather attractive though he is the Leftist wolf breathing on the country's front door. All May had to do was keep her mouth shut, govern and negotiate Brexit which kicks off, like, Now.

My bet is that Boris will take over the conservative party followed by a 2nd general election in 2017. Labour wins it.

Wednesday, May 31

The Kiss

Tuileries Garden
Rodin was a sensuous bastard.

The Kiss portrays Paolo and Francesca from Dante’s Divine Comedy: slain by Francesca’s husband who surprised them as they exchanged their first kiss, the two lovers are condemned to wander eternally through Hell. Now I make a joke about what's in store for Madeleine's suiters. Ar AR.

I return from a routine visit to Paris following a Bank Holiday Monday that correspondes nicely with Memorial Day Weekend. Paris is a jewel this time of year - there is no place I would rather be in the springtime or early summer.

Sunday, May 28


Sacred land
From Mount Scopus I look into Jordan - in the distance is the Dead Sea.

I go for a jog along the path which circles Jerusalem on the eastern border and passes the Arab quarter, which is dense and built into the mountainside. A gold balled minaret, maybe 15 stories high, is in the middle; a loud speaker drones of the injustices of the Jews which echo from the walls of the deserted concrete-block streets (the wailing begins at 6AM until Midnight).

The thing is, the Arabs are invited to live and work in Jerusalem; the Israeli Arabs make a large portion of the city and vote in the national elections. The Palestinians, by contrast, want the Jews out of Jerusalem and are not willing to share it. Therein lies the conflict.

I drive through the West Bank (the highway bifurcates the region) which is walled and prevents the flow of people.

Jerusalem maybe the size of the Bay Area yet looms large in our imagination if not our life.


Old Jerusalem
Despite the day's temperatures, the medina is cool.  The shopkeepers open by 10AM and I negotiate a few items to bring home.  There is Arab coffee, bread and fresh bagel stalls and fruit drinks or lemonade. All negotiated for a price, of course. 

My driver scores me a ticket to the Israel Premier League football championships between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Be'er Sheva. The dude knows the owner.  Though I am not vested in either team, it is world class football and fun to take in the good vibes. 

Prayer For The Living

God talks
The Wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple (517 BCE to 70 BC) by Herod the Great as the encasement of the steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount. The temple hosts the Dome of Rock and is one of the most important religious sites in the world - it has been venerated as a holy site for thousands of years by Judaism, Christianity and Islam (during my visit the Temple is accessible only to Muslims for prayer, the entrance-way guarded by Israeli soldiers).

The Wall is open to all those who wish access, though the sexes are split to separate areas. Inside the tunnels of the ancient city are libraries of scripture where one can study the ancient prophecies; sermons in Hebrew attract the faithful, outside of the baking sun.

Wailing Wall

In Jerusalem I visit the Wailing Wall, part of the larger Western Wall in the ancient city, where I record the sounds of the Jewish scholars chanting in prayer. I am reminded all over again of the weirdness of life.

God is a serious business.

Last time I was here was 1984.

Tel Aviv

I arrive in Tel Aviv and am hit by the temperature: maybe 90 degrees.  It is a vibrant place, a mix of California, Western Europe and the third world. Dirty yet modern skyscrapers distributed across the skyline. I am in a grubby neighbourhood with the yuf about a kilometre from the beach, which beats the Four Seasons. Perfect to experience the action and people-watch, which is a mixture of everything, but mostly young. The blood of the world.

For an instant I am wistful for my 20s. I promise Madeleine to bring her here.

People live in Tel Aviv (population 4m) to make money, of course (unlike Jerusalem) but also to have fun. It is not a place to relax (I am told) and to "live and experience life."

I go for a run along the Mediterranean and pass this unusual couple, pictured. They are by themselves; it begs a story.

Ásgeir Trausti

Koko's club
We see Ageir in Cambden at the invitation of Stephane and Caroline, who are from Paris and relocated to London about 18 months ago. They are chic.

I give Stephane shit for being French, well, because he is French and deserves it, but Stephane is not a Frenchie-French. He is French-international. Big difference. Clever bastards.

Ageir, for his part, is a singer-songwriter from Iceland which is an unusual start. His music is haunting, even while the words unrecognisable to me. He seems surprised to be on stage before a sold out audience of fans who know the words to his songs.

The Manchester bombing kills 22, targeting young people at a concert. It is the new normal.

Tuesday, May 23

A Dog's Life

Sometimes I think the dog has one over on us.

I make a two hour hike of Richmond Park weighted down with my 65 liter back-pack loaded with tin cans to simulate the gear for the JMT.  I've sorted the kit but the food drops still have me worried. Two months to get myself sorted (as these Brits would say).

Madeleine and I go to the movies - totally irregular for a Monday school night but homework be damned, it's Alien Covenant. We settle in for a couple hours of alien gore. Not nearly so good as the first Alien, Ridley Scott's master work (watched at the Grand Oak theatre with my mom in 1979 btw), but still fun. Madeleine is Big into film and photography, with her photos taped on her bedroom wall.

The reason I love my blog is the randomness: for instance, I would have never recalled that Madeleine wanted to name her turtle 'Alonzo Smith' before choosing Eric and Nelson.

Sunday, May 21

Sonnet Tedx

Birthday Gal

Sonnet's birthday is celebrated by her with an early morning run around Richmond Park with her girlfriends (she does it every Sunday anyway). We go to a matinee in Barnes with Madeleine - how decadent on a sunny afternoon - and tonight we will have an early family dinner at the local gastro pub (Madeleine begs for sushi but me: No way).

Observing Madeleine, who is so cool and up for anything, who will make some guy a great companion, I appreciate how lucky I am to have shared the Adventure with Sonnet. Like mother, like daughter.

Madeleine texts me: "I am rediscovering old bands" and rattles off a bunch of groups from two years ago.


It's a queen size bed
Back in London I am reminded that we own a couple of teenagers.

Of course the weather grey and wet upon arrival home following a week in the mid 80s. But, after so many years, I appreciate Britain's temperate climate.

I recall a dude I worked with at Botts & Co., Michael, who, flying into Heathrow together, clucked his tongue and said "Good old Angleterre." (Michael also reminds me of an advertisement for a Jaguar sports car whose slogan read: "Turn mister average into mister universe". Shortly after Michael drove in with a Jaguar)

I crash early after the long flight and Sonnet retrieves Madeleine from Will's at a negotiated 10:15pm pick-up.  She reports that Will is playing guitar and the crew is singing.

Office Lady

The Japanese are famously polite. I am greeted by a row of similarly styled Japanese women (called "Office Ladies" or OLs); one (always standing) bows and takes my details. I am then greeted on the floor by another woman (bowing) who shows me to a conference room.  Afterwards, the same front desk women (all standing) bow and wish me on my way.

Meetings in Tokyo go well; for a few it is 50-50 whether I am understood. When the English dubious, my counter-party stairs furiously at the presentation and scribbles hard notes in Japanese. I know that if I crack a smile they will too. Or if I laugh for no reason they will join with equal enthusiasm.

Kallan informs that ex-pats get "the fever" when it comes to Asian and Japanese women.


A master
I love Tokyo. For a city so big - 26m people - it is clean and orderly, not a gum on the sidewalk nor a wrapper in the street.

And super modern - the high rise towers are destroyed and rebuilt every 30 years to remain earthquake compliant. I stay in the Roppongi district famous (I am told) for the affluent Roppongi Hill development and the popular night club scene. Of course sushi too.

We visit a restaurant where I have perhaps the best sushi of my life. The sushi chef slices raw fish with a longsword of valyrian steel so sharp it would cut through human bone and sinew in a whisper, separating a Lannister's head from his body in an instant. 

Some of the sushis are still living. There is a sea urchan of beautiful white and purple trim that arches upwards looking for air and perhaps some way out. The Japanese businessman contemplates it for a brief moment then down the hatch, followed by sake. Mine are a bit more tame but equally beautiful. 

Self Portrait XXXXXII

Early morning flight from Seoul to Tokyo; airport lounge
During my trip I am accompanied by Park Hill, our placement agent, who we have worked with on funds V and VI.

So (one might ask) what does one do on these road shows besides catch planes and eat Asian food? For starters, I am visiting fund investors who have supported Astorg in past funds (Asian limited partners account for 10% of Astorg VI). I am also setting up the base for the next fundraising, which will take place in 2019 (likely).

In London, Eitan works his way through the GCSE exams. The kid (Sonnet reports) is No Drama. Eitan now about half-way through the exam schedule with the worst part is over : It is no longer the unknown. Or, as I compare, a marathon not a marathon after the first step of the race.

Day 4 : Seoul

Fired up and ready to kick some ass
From HK I am in Seoul to speak at the Alternatives Summit Korea Global Private Equity & Debt conference (My subject is "Co-investment" which is increasingly demanded by limited partners as there are no fees on co-invest deals unlike on the fund).

The guys, pictured, represent over USD 1T of investment.

I am not quite prepared for the conference size - comfortably over 500 Asian delegates staring at me blankly - yet it goes swimmingly well. My words simultaneously translated to Asian languages and sent to ear pieces provided to the attendees.

Afterwards there is a formal dinner and we are treated to a Korean soprano who belts out: "I did it my way" (I did-a it my-ya wuay). With the right people next to me I would have busted a gut.

Day 3 - Hong Kong

High rising
Hong Kong is impressive. The first impression, on the drive to the island from Chek Lap Kok airport, is the density. Then the height. Racks of 40 story condominium towers fight for air space and not only that : arriving at night, they are all lit from inside. 100 pc occupancy which is so very different from, say, Toronto or, now Central London, where the real estate is a financial investment (and the emptiness a worry and a blight).

7 million people on 5 square acres.

The thing of it is - Hong Kong works. The city is amazingly efficient: Roads wind and weave about, connecting office towers to hotels to walkways and on ramps and residential towers. One pays for it though. Rent on a four bedroom family condo easily goes for USD 30,000 a month. A salaried man might live his life in 200 square-feet for 3k.

I meet the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. They are making investments of up to 500m a pop.


Joe and I reunited
From Taipei to Hong Kong.

I connect with Joe, who I worked with at First Boston. Joe has been at the clipper for 32 years which has to be a record for investment banking. He now heads m&a Asia and has lived in HK since 1993 - the first tour as a single dude living an expat lifestyle (I visited him in '94) and now as a married dude with three kids in their teens.

Joe and I have some good laughs which I can only share with a handful of people from those early years of banking - the urgency of the dealmaking and the stakes that seemed so high (I was informed, "This is not casual sex!" on some project by one particular jerk, which still gets mirth today).  It was exhausting and miserable and now, in the rearview mirror, an adventure. I hesitate to say 'fun' but it was .. something. And now a joy to re-examine it with those who lived it with me.


Night Market
I begin a week of Astorg meetings in Asia, starting with Taipei, Taiwan. 

Taipei is typical as far as Asian cities go: modern western buildings of impressive steel and glass design surrounded by sprawl and lush green ridgeways that make it feel .. unfamiliar.

In the urban jungle people are crammed together forcing a pace of lifestyle that rivals Hong Kong and New York, though the scale smaller in Taipei at c.3m population.

I visit the Night Food Market which is a jammed one mile row of cheap shops selling faux Nikes and food stalls making bubbling fried food: chopped octopus, fried crabs and shrimps, Chinese vegetables, chicken hinges and other unrecognised edible parts. I am told to try the 'Stinky Toffy' - it does stink and I don't try it.

Taiwan has one of the world's remarkable museums - The National Museum - about an hour's drive from Taipei - with 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks, making it one of the largest of its type in the world. I have been but not this time.

Friday, May 12


After two and a half years we have white teeth.


Swanage Camp

Emanuel School backdrop
Lest we forget Madeleine during the GCSEs, our gal away to .. Swanage for a school field trip to explore nature (the name 'Swanage' gets an eye-roll. Sounds like "sewage" which is apt). She goes against her will, of course, and must suffer two nights in the cold and damp then up pre-dawn to watch the tides come in. How we suffer.

She is happy when we pick her up. Sushi.

Me: "Say something for the blog."
Eitan: "Um .. "
Me: "What peps you up?"
Eitan: "Looking forward to football camp this summer. Celebrating after GCSEs. Occasionally looking forward to getting some studying done."
Me: "That it?"
Eitan: "Yeah."
Eitan: "Food."

Saturday, May 6


The General Certificate of Secondary Education, or " GCSEs," are upon us. 21 standarised exams covering 10 subjects administered over a five week period.

The GCSEs, along with A levels at the conclusion of secondary school, determine where - and if - a student goes to university. In the UK, Admissions see the results and a one-page personal statement. That's it (For US colleges, a GPA is extrapolated from the GCSE). To suggest there is pressure is an understatement.

Sonnet and I aware of the GCSEs since, well, Eitan's birth. It has always been a curious and distant event, over the horizon and safely in the future. No more.

Eitan has done his preparation - perhaps not like the girls who grind out the hours - but he is organised and committed. Eitan projects no fear though we know the he is anxious.

And so they begin with a Bang - History, English and Drama yesterday

Monday, May 1

Eitan 24 Hours

Eitan wraps up the football season as Captain for the Sheen Lions, followed by a BBQ and send-off for the manager Jon, with the Lions for five years, who is relocating to Tampa Bay, Florida, in September.  Eitan gives a lovely speech. Shortly before, Eitan is selected "Player's player" by his team mates.

Today, the boy races the 800 in Tooting Bec and blasts a PB of 2:06.

All this between his GCSE studies.

Sonnet and I could not be more proud of him.

Marbred Moment

Nothing like a bummed cigarette
Eric is is emerging from his concussed haze, suffered from a traumatic bike accident six weeks ago, to resume work on his computer software project to carry the day for the common core states standards in mathematics initially backed by Bill Gates. He prepares to write a calculus and differential equations final for the Harvard Extension School on his triumphant return to Boston.

Abney Cemetary

We do what we love to do, which is walk. On Saturday we exit Waterloo Station and walk to Seven Sisters, crossing Holborn, The City, Shoreditch, Tower Hamlets, Dalston and through ethnic neighbourhoods which change every five or six blocks.

Abney Park cemetery in Stoke Newington (borough of Hackney), in the middle of all the concrete, is one of London's Magnificent Seven cemeteries, a historic parkland originally laid out in the early 18th century by Lady Mary Abney and Dr Isaac Wattas. (Nb. The "Magnificent Seven" is an informal term applied to seven large private cemetries in London that were established in the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds).


Pre concert
Eric arrives in time for Bob Dylan, who we see on Friday night.

Bob arrives on stage at precisely 8PM, plays two hours, takes a bow, and is gone without uttering a word to the audience. Unusually he sits at the piano instead of his normal blues guitar. He plays Blow'n In The Wind and Tangled Up In Blues from his youth, while the remainder is from his recent arsenal.

Dylan's voice is no longer the twangy voice we recognise from the 60s or 70s yet it is impossible not to juxtapose those times on the man now.

Me: "Are you going to work on the backyard like I asked?"
Madelien: "No."
Me: "I will pay you."
Madeleine: "I'm not going to."
Me to Eric: "This is what happens when a kid is bloated with money. There is no incentive to work."
Eric, Madeleine:
Me: "How much money do you have in your account ? Couple hundred?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "When you're flush, you don't work."
Madeleine: "Whatever."