Wednesday, March 31

TX #1

And to show that I am not only transfixed by football ... Texas wins its tenth NCAA swimming championship under 32nd-year head coach Eddie Reese Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. The Longhorns used nine top-eight finishes on the final day to power past Cal en route to the title. The team totaled 500 points and finished 30.5 points ahead of second-place California after trailing the Golden Bears by 18.5 points through day two of the three-day meet. We Bears fans are cursed.

Rubbing it in, the UT Tower lit No. 1 last night in recognition of, well, being No. 1. Per university tradition, the campus landmark shines orange when a Texas team wins a NCAA team championship. The women’s indoor track and field team most recently had the Tower lights shine in that fashion in 2006. Rat bastards.

I spent my Sr. year of high-school swimming with Cal, coached by legendary Nort Thorton, who had one lung so whispered most of the time. We were terrified of him. I trained with guys like Rob Schmidt and John Mykennan, who won a silver-medal in the '84 Olympics. Biondi was there, too, but rarely in the mornings- sprinter, after all. There were some Swedes like T.A. Debaise who set records in the 200 butterfly and freestyle and Bangt Barron, who won the NCAA 100m backstroke. These guys were smart- premed, engineering, sciences. Sound body, sound mind. I learned that one early.

My photo has nothing to do with this week's NCAA and instead a cool shot of Japanese swimmer Kosuke Kitajima setting a World Record in the 100m breaststroke going 58.91, becoming the first swimmer under 59-seconds. Photo from ABC sports. Rock on.

Barcelona And Endings

It is half-time in the Champions League and Arsenal v. Barcelona drones in the background, Eitan glued to the wireless (as Christian notes: a "mouth watering" match-up)(photo from Barcelona FC website). Barca one of Europe's class acts, certainly on par with the Red Devils or Chelsea or AC Milan. Eitan and I are still recovering from last night's ManU-Bayer Munich, who won 2-1 on a goal in the final seconds of extra time+Wayne Rooney down with an ankle injury. Eitan to bed, dog faced. And what does this mean for England? Without Rooney we don't have a chance in South Africa this June (World Cup, mom). Now I am not superstitious and would never suggest a curse but I have followed Cal my entire life and we have not been to a Rose Bowl since '58. Now that is cursed. Will I suffer same here? England mad for soccer, which is one of the great joys of living here. All the more chez-nous as Eitan's KPR Blues tops in their division and assured a promotion next year. Then the games will be tough but for now we enjoy, if not breath, the beautiful game.

So today a day of endings: Sonnet enjoys her last day at the V and A (her colleagues organise tea). We say good-bye to Natasha, who has been our nanny for three years. And tomorrow is the kids last day of school before Easter Break. I am the only one missing some conclusion of something. But really I am pre-occupied: Must. Make. Money.

Me: "Madeleine, if you don't eat your greens, I am going to give you more."
Madeleine: "That is so unfair."
Me: "Sorry, kid, there are some things out of my control."
Madeleine: "Dad, you are either with me or against me."
Me: "That is a pretty strong statement coming from an eight-year old."
Madeleine: "Which one is it?"
Me: "On the greens, I am against you."
Madeleine: "I cannot believe my own dad is against me. My own dad."

Tuesday, March 30

Bruce And Roger

I seem to be on memory lane so here are my college room-mates Bruce and Roger. Bruce is now a doctor.

My Jr. year at Brown I lived off-campus on Brown Street with seven Seniors - which meant I celebrated graduation twice but, really, I was ready to be done with college after three years. In that mix, there is now an i banker, several doctors, a US Attorney, a law professor and Roger, a Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, God bless. We have all gone our ways and to imagine there we were, in one spot, listening to each other and what one day we might wish to do. Me, I was itching for Wall Street and New York which I felt the cat's meow. I was well prepped, too, having watched Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" and fired up be in Bud Fox's precarious position of making the call between right and wrong. Money or one's soul. I figured I would be Ok but Daryl Hannah was mighty fine+Bud had the penthouse. Well, instead of the floor trading secret information, I ended up at First Boston analysing cashflows and balance sheets. Nothing untoward there. In fact, in my years of finance, I have never seen anything close to impropriety - a consideration I have confirmed with my friend Joe, who has been a First Boston banker wanker since '85 and wrote my b school recommendations in '93.

But any ... ways .. Sonnet stands by the counter eating Saturday's left-over chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Eitan on the kitchen floor with feet elevated on a chair while ManU plays Bayer Munich in the Champions Leagues. Madeleine with us a moment ago holding her hamster Tommy like a pop cycle. I shock - shock!- the kids by giving them tomorrow off from school since A) we were up last night until Midnight for Passover; and B) tomorrow Natasha's last day. From then, Sonnet will be full-time mom for five months.

Eitan shows Sonnet how to make arm-farts with hand in arm-pit.
Sonnet: "You have a special talent, Eitan. It will help you a lot in life."
Eitan: "If I end up poor, I can do it on the streets and people can pay me money."
Sonnet: "Busking with arm farts by Eitan Orenstein."

Self Portrait XVI

Here is yours, truly, in 1983 at Dave's house after a Saturday over-night (I am pretty sure). Dave's English mum Judith (from Hamstead Garden Suburbs or "the posh" part of town) sends me this photo last month. How our past never escapes us. Back then, Dave and I the same stature -- 98 pound weaklings -- while an ongoing joke (to this day I emphasize) our height: he nips me with an afro but otherwise I top him. We both hid behind our yufful obsessions: swimming and saxophone, which enabled us to dexterously side-step those awkward teens. Chicken shits were we, but one adapts as one can [I own a strange memory of biking past the Ellis house every morning, 5:45AM, on my way to swimming practice at King Jr High pool - dark, cold, often raining and two hours and five miles of swimming ahead.] Today, Dave a buffed black dude with shaved head and somewhat menacing goatee. A bad ass. And serious, too - he continues to perform and enjoyed the #1 jazz album in the country in '06 with "State Of Mind." I still swim a few laps myself but not so much.

Monday, March 29

Three Graces

The Three Graces (here, butchered by my mobile phone) I see at Musee Conde at Chantillly. The painting by Raphael from the Italian High Renaissance and finished sometime around 1501. The image to personify grace and beauty while the figures attendants of several goddesses; in art, they are often the handmaids of Venus, sharing several of her attributes like the rose, myrtle, apple or dice. Their names (according to Hesiod in "Theogon," 905) are Algaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia. They are often grouped - as seen - with the two outer figures facing the spectator, and the one in the middle facing away.

Sunday, March 28

Sunday Park

Sonnet off to South Kensington to meet Rana on her return from Copenhagen and before she flies to New York. Since finally we have some warm-ish weather, the Shakespeares and I head for Richmond Park (Madeleine armed w/ bread for the ducks). Eitan says smoking should be banned, which leads into a conversation about personal choice: should we stop at smoking? He ponders this and notes certain things - like smoking and fighting - should be stopped as "only stupid people do them." I ask how we decide who is stupid? Eitan: "if they smoke and fight" (I walk into this one). I introduce Marx and communism and Eitan listens politely before moving adroitly off the subject.

The kids discover someone's tree-fort:
Madeleine: "I wouldn't mind living here forever."
Eitan: "You might not mind, but times would be tough."
Madeleine: "Especially when it rains."
Me: "Go for it. I'll stop by tomorrow morning with some cereal."
Madeleine: "You're joking, Dad."

The White Lodge

The White Lodge, pictured, in Richmond Park not far from Sheen Gate and us (though I would never suggest, dear reader, these the neighbors). The house built for George II as a hunting lodge after he became King in 1727. Today, it is home to the Sadler's Wells Ballet School, who were given permanent use of the property in 1955 and soon later granted a Royal Charter becoming the Royal Ballet School - which is recognised as one of the leading ballet schools in the world.

Before. And After

On Thursday, Eitan announces he will cut his hair short. I find this hard to imagine and assume he will not follow up. But yesterday he brings it up again and, since the poor lad a bit glum, I ask him to sleep on it. Yet now arrives and his mind set: we head for the Turks and a date with clipper no. 6.

Kew Park Rangers celebrates its tenth anniversary last night with a fancy formal affair at the Richmond Hotel and fundraiser. By the time I organise a table for the Blues, the evening full-up so Sonnet and I host instead. More fun this way, I suggest. We have a group of eight which is fortunate since our dining room table holds .. eight. Sonnet decides upon a "Mad Men" theme and I serve martinis then steak and potatoes followed by a four-layer chocolate cake. I recount my grandparents all-night bridge sessions in Upper Arlington, Ohio, where my grandfather prepared pitchers of Manhattans and Martinis - so '50s cool. Sonnet hangs a photo of the boys. It is an interesting group, too - German, English, Italian and American and since we are middle-aged and this is England, we polish off six bottles of wine and a bottle of desert port. Our conversation rolls from football to secondary schools to America's foreign policy. Usual stuff at these sort of things. Tatiana once worked for the Treuhandanstalt privatising companies in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. She notes the honeymoon lasted three months, or from October to about Christmas. It was a bummer to learn East German companies horribly run and the rest a basket case requiring much more money and effort then imagined. But today, Tatiana and her husband Johannes (a diplomatic correspondent) seem happy with the outcome.

Eitan's KPR takes two from Manacroft United, who (before today) top of the Surrey Youth League's under-10s. The boys play inspired football and win 4-1 and 3-2, nearly securing their division's top-spot and a sure-promotion into Division 2 next season. My only upset in the second game when several KPR players, including Eitan, celebrate a goal with a choreographed dance - I tell Eitan afterwards that if I ever see it again I will take him off the pitch. I know how these boys feel when they cede a point and there is no reason to make the other side feel worse for it.

Saturday, March 27

Back Home - Back Yard

I return to London from Paris yesterday accompanied by Gareth, a youngster who invest in private equity funds for a wealthy family. Gareth graduated Cambridge five-years ago, studying physics and, while clearly a brainiac, he is not polished as many of our peers (no Hermes tie nor tailoredsuit). Gareth grew up outside Newcastle and went to a state secondary school (note, dear reader, that less than 5% of British children educated privately yet 50% of Oxbridge from private secondaries, a figure once much higher). Gareth notes his first day at Cambridge talking to some guy who simply walked off mid-sentence asking "where are the privates anyway?" The worst of Britain's class system.

Eitan pokes his head out the window to bark some orders while Sonnet and I do the yard-work. Eitan allowed to "chill" this afternoon following a break-down post football and pre-tutor which was moved to today from Monday so we can celebrate Passover with friends (got that?). Eitan is working hard and has high expectations for himself and sometimes over-loaded. I give him a big hug and shoo Madeleine away (she being curious). Sonnet makes him a snack then off we go - fortunately his tutor sympathetic and aware of his mood; she takes me aside to say: "he is a joy to teach." Later, in a better mood, the boy (in gym kit) runs 100 back-and-forths in the living room exclaiming: "I cannot wait to be an adult so I can train [for football] all the time." Did I mention he has high standards?

Chateau de Chantilly

Yesterday I return from Paris and Astorg's annual investors meeting. The presentations off with a bang! Thursday as the day before GeoServices sold to Schlumberger for $1 billion or 7.5X cost and 1X the fund. Geo a "mud logging" company providing oil companies with engineering reports that help optimise the drilling process while keeping costs under control. The CEO gives a thorough overview of the business and receives a well deserved standing ovation from us. Astorg bought Geo in 2004, somehow convincing the founding-owner to go with Astorg and not an IPO at two-thirds the IPO valuation. The deal has worked for everybody and one of the Astorg partners notes to me: "a dream scenario."

I have known Astorg since 2004 when I helped raise their third fund and again in 2007 when I assisted with number four. We will re-union again later this year for Astorg V, which is like hanging out with a bunch of your friends. How unusual that I should know so intimately a Paris team or they a dude from California.

We conclude our first day at Chateau de Chantilly, pictured, a magnificent castle dating to the 15th Century, which we have to ourselves while receiving a guided tour through the magnificent art galleries, home to the finest collection of paintings in France after the Louvre. The estate includes the Chantilly Racecourse and Grandes Ecuiries (stables) which, at 186 meters long, are considered the most beautiful in the world, our guide tells us. It is easy to agree. At the stables' end, an enormous marble enclosure hosts a circus for displaying the horses and we are treated to a show: the animals paraded before us in a dreamlike fashion. Surreal. We conclude with dinner in the adjoining gallery and raise toasts and congratulations from Xavier who welcomes new investments and staff while saying good-bye to companies sold this year. There have been several, lucky us.

Note to Moe: the chateau and the Great Stables featured in the '85 Bond film "A View To A Kill" as the home of Max Zorin (Christopher Walkin) which was infiltrated by 007 (played for the last time by Roger Moore) in Bond's quest to eliminate Zorin. Which he does somewhere in the BA.

Photo from Craig Patik.

Wednesday, March 24

Hotel California

After a morning of meetings in town, I fly to Charles de Gaulle Airport (my least favorite airport) and arrive at Chateau Hotel Mont Royal in Chantilly, pictured, in time for a late supper. Astorg is having their annual meeting and I am re-united with friends, a Pinot Noir and a fine club sandwich. Happiness is life's simple pleasures. The hotel one of France's finest and I plan to flex my Speedo in the pool and spa. Tres gay and loving it. Tomorrow we will dive into Astorg's performance &c. but for now I watch some crap American vampire show on cable en francaise, text Sonnet and write this blog, for you, dear reader and family.

Meanwhile, back at 45, Sonnet and I brush elbows as I pack for France and she dashes for Eitan's choir performance in Kingston (she notes:"it is just like a swimming gala"- which I assume means the kids parade on stage and sing their little hearts out). I ask Sonnet's opinion on my travel outfits- I am a metrosexual afterall - and receive her unfocused response. Yes, it is true, I am not always her #1 which makes me jealous even if it is our kids who trump me. I have had Sonnet longer then they (and - how could I ever live without her?). From choir, Sonnet at the pool for kids swim practice. I text her - "you are a mum in her prime"- which, from Wednesday, she will be full time as she begins her five-month work-leave from the museum. Win, win, dude.

I tell Madeleine I am away until Friday and she holds back tears. I give her a big hug and promise our week end together thinking how much I love this kid. Eitan shrugs but I know he will miss me too.

Tuesday, March 23

A Red Tongue & Rana

Madeleine and I pass time at the mall awaiting Eitan, who is with his Monday tutor. Madeleine rummages the toy store and comes away with a frog, pictured, though she insists it is a lizard. Well, I think it is a frog which also seems appropriate given the frog eggs (update: we observe with excitement the spawn elongating towards tadpoledom). It is hard to convey, dear reader, how a green rubber with red tongue can provide hours of amusement.

Madeleine gives me her glow-in-the-dark skull which I clip to a belt loop. I embarrass her by growling at passer-bys but she is on the inside of the joke: Dad might be a weirdo but he is an adult and can do these things. Presumably. Eitan's tutor, Stephanie, a very stylish Brit with black knee-high boots. She raves about the boy, who takes his medicine with head held-low. Secretly, I know, he is pleased with himself. Madeleine next.

We end our day in Primrose Hill for dinner with Rana and her new fella John, who has published ten books and has never lived outside Boston. Yes, he is a die-hard Red Sox fan and his eyes glaze over when he describes the 2007 World Series. Purrr. Rana recently made Deputy Editor of Newsweek Magazine and on her way to Copenhagen where she will present at a conference. She tells me that CNN's cable business, under threat and in decline, generates $2 billion of revenues while the CNN website, the most popular news source in the world, produces less than $60 million. Rana is one of the Good And The Great and our democracy desperately needs her fully engaged.

Back to work.

BHS Swim, 1984

The Internet is amazing for some things - here, I find a direct passage from the Berkeley High School year-book in 1984 (I was in Switzerland). My picture from left: Eric Dolvin (hands in jeans pocket); Adam, John and Ivor.
“The 1984 Men's Swim team is stronger than ever and is favored to repeat this year as League Champions. Led by Team Captain John Sklut, Sprinters Gav Pilorget, Steve Wrubel and Ian Link, Stroke Swimmers Adam Ballachey, Eric Dolven and Ethan Scheiner, this year's squad has excellent front line speed and solid depth. Early season victories over Pinole, Castro Valley and San Leandro have proven that these front line swimmers should capture their events at the RBAL Championships and hopefully continue on the North Coast. Newcomers Ken Leonard and Brendon Byrne and returning Juniors Paul Hamai and Ivor Brown add talent and depth to this year's team. The 1985 team, losing only three seniors will be even stronger as the talented Freshmen and Sophomores develop into first-rate Varsity swim-mers.” ('Berkeley High School year-book, 1984, p. 310)

Sunday, March 21

Persia, Visited

We spend this afternoon with Darius and Liz celebrating the Iranian New Year. Their son, Cyrus, (pictured, center, with Joe and Eitan) is Eitan's school pal and a maths genius (says Eitan). The Iranian custom, I learn, to welcome the New Year visiting family and friends from oldest to youngest. The women prepare food anticipating 30 guests for lunch and dinner. Darius moved to London at age-16 in 1978; his family from Esfahan in the center of the country where they were farmers and landowners - "As a child, we would get on our horses and ride for days hunting or visiting friends. Nobody worried about us. If tired we would find a house and they would celebrate our arrival - they were my father's servants." By '78, Darius had passed his exams with honours and on his way to University - "we thought we would be in the UK for a couple of months then return home. After a year, my father said we had to get on with our education." This meant entering a school and getting a job - his first: transporting equipment for a famous American celebrity photographer ("all we did was party") while his older brother found the casinos and eventually gambled away their inheritance. Today Darius tells me that visiting Iran sees tension with his peers and elders who accuse of of failing Iran during the war with Iraq - "some people are very angry but I would be one more statistic. Many people died and some cities just emptied."

The Iran-Iraq war, also known as the Imposed War and Holy Defense, began when Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 following a long history of border disputes and fears of Shia insurgency among Iraq's long-suppressed Shia majority influenced by the Iranian Revolution. Iraq aimed to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state. Iraq hoped to take advantage of Iran's revolutionary chaos and attacked without warning - Iraq made limited progress over several months then repelled by the Iranians who regained almost all lost territory by 1982. For the next six years, Iran was on the offensive. Hostilities ended in 1988 and the last prisoners of war exchanged in 2003.

The toll massive: a half a million Iraqi and Iranian soldiers and civilians dead with many more maimed or injured. The war's tactics compared to WWI, including trench warfare, manned machine-gun posts, bayonet charges, use of barbed wire across trenches, human wave attacks across no-mans land and use of chemical weapons like mustard gas against Iranian troops and civilians and Iraqi Kurds. The UN Security Council condemned the use of chemical weapons but Iraq never mentioned by name; consequently there is a lingering belief that the US prevented the UN from condemning Iraq. (Abrahamian, Ervand, "A History of Modern Iran," Cambridge)

Madeleine stuck on her homework.
Sonnet: "Tell us what you did at the British Museum?"
Me: "I saw some stuff."
Sonnet: "Tell me some more, a bit more articulately."
Madeleine: "We saw some stuff."
Sonnet: "Can you think of three or four specific things?"
Madeleine: "We saw Ginger [the carrot top mummy]. The Rosetta Stone. And lunch. We also went to Rome, but we were lost and thought it was Egypt."

Sunday Homework

Eitan: "Mum, I am really bored with this homework. The school homework is too easy."

Sonnet: "Well, how about your tutor's assignments? Those are a bit more challenging."
Eitan: "Yes, but I still have to do the other stuff."
Sonnet: "Well, do the tutor first and finish up your school work before bedtime."
Me: "What is your homework?"
Eitan: "I have to think up a disaster. In a sweets factory."
Me: "That sounds pretty interesting. How about a bunch of you are in the sweets factory listening to Manchester United on the radio and they lose?"
Eitan: "That is not funny, Dad."
Me: "Well, a year ago that would have been a calamity. Remember when we watched ManU lose to Barcelona in the UEFA Cup final? (which we watched at The Red Lion in Greenwich Village,NY). You were, like, sobbing afterwards. All the men thought I pinched you or beat you up or something."
Eitan: "Yeah .. "
Sonnet: "Don't get distracted. I am sure you can think of a good idea."
Eitan: "Maybe I can just say a bomb blew up the factory. Then at least I would be done."

Frog Spawn

Madeleine mills about the backyard on the first spring-like day on the first day of spring: "Dad! Come quick! Frog spawn!" she shouts. Eitan drops his rake and we run over to the pond: indeed, a batch of eggs. How unexpected. A frog darts below. The goldfish, too, re-appear after a long cold winter which froze the pond water -- I thought for sure they were dead but apparently they hang out on the pond's bottom where it is warmer. Eitan and Madeleine both familiar with frog spawn which is a Year 2 project. Madeleine goes to work: Tupperware - check. A few stones - check. Some seaweed and algae. Double check. She uses a soup ladle to scoop about a hundred eggs which now rest on the kitchen counter. Assuming Madeleine can keep her hands out and Sonnet allows it in the kitchen, we may have tadpoles. Fun!

The kids have an over-night with Aggie and Sonnet and I attend Sophie's bat mitzvah (Sophie's father Todd and I met through Brown; he is a senior partner and COO of investment firm KKR). Sophie does a magnificent job and the celebration at Madame Tussauds which we have all to ourselves. I chat with a party coordinator who tells me the museum receives over 10,000 people a day during tourist season. We are greeted with open bars, a Disco floor and DJ and the greatest mix of historical figures in our time: Michael Jackson and Barack Obama. Richard Branson and the Spice Girls. There is Churchill .. and JFK next to Twiggy. David and Victoria Beckham chat conspiratorially .. forevermore. We are served martini cocktails and mohitos before dinner and dance until late into the evening. Sonnet looks wonderful as she always does and we have the house all to ourselves for afterwards. How romantic. How strange.

Madeleine: "How do I get the broom?"
Me: "You can figure that out."
Madeleine: "I hate it when you do that."

Friday, March 19

Love Your Vagina . Com

The pictured ad, I submit, a new one for the underground. In this case, my photo from Waterloo Station. And no matter how you feel about one's "dangly bits" the simple message positive and consistent with the facts: this week's ICM survey of 3,000 British women reveals ages 18 to 24 had, on average, 5.6 partners between 2000 and last year. Gals in the 1960s (the "sexual revolution") averaged 1.7 partners; the 1970s, 3.7; and the 1990s - just under five. 8% of today's women have slept with more than ten partners by their mid-20s. As long as protection involved, I am all for it. Make love, not war.

Unfortunately, Figures from Cancer Research UK found that, despite better screening methods, rates of cervical cancer in women under-25 have not fallen. Although the number of older women diagnosed with the disease has decreased sharply, diagnoses in women in their mid-20s have not followed this trend. The NHS screens from age-25 but it should be much lower.

Separately re protection, today's Times reports that the UK government will send 42-million condoms to South Africa for the World Cup (no John Terry jokes please). Since 2007, Britain has been the largest country-donor of condoms to the developing world. Whenever the US preaches abstinence, the British quietly up their shipments of rubbers. This has likely saved millions of lives. Says Prof. Alan Whiteside, one of the world's leading HIV experts since the early 1980s, in the Times: "Britain's excellent track record on condoms is born of two things: realism and consistency. Britain has a pragmatic view of the world and public health. This has made the difference." And makes me proud.

Oh, so of course I check out which is selling some kind of vaginal douche:
"We think it [a vagina] deserves some love, especially when you think how much love and attention you lavish on your hair, nails, teeth and skin."
And: "That's why we've created an alternative type of sanitary protection that's attracting more and more women every year. It's called Mooncup ... "
That, dear reader, is as far as I go.

So Chav

Madeleine this morning before school. The kids allowed to dress however they wish this Friday so Madeleine goes for the black track-suit. I am loving it.

Thursday, March 18

The Queen

Sonnet at Buckingham Palace yesterday to prepare for a British clothing industry reception. That evening, she meets Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, here pictured with Sophie Dahl in a red dress (photo from the BBC). Sonnet tells me the Queen and she chatted: "this group of young students is very talented" said her Royal Highness. The Queen also commented how sad that one of the designers working for Alexander McQueen -"That must be very difficult." Prince Philip, being Philip, flirted with the younger talent and grumbled to Sonnet: "well, I hope you are at least British" probably wondering about the Pakis or "slitty-eyes" which is how he once described the Chinese. The Queen's living quarters upstairs while the reception somewhere below her, so Elizabeth may breeze downstairs and greet her guests. She has 300 staff, at various households, who ensure things run smoothly and kept tidy (Sonnet notes there is a Coutts ATM in the palace - this England's most prestigious bank). Sonnet meets Frank, who lives on the palace grounds, and has been a part of the Royal Family's entourage for 28 years, visiting over 40 countries on his savings. Unmarried, Frank does not pay for his residency nor utilities and probably not board either. A bachelor's life in a glamorous pad -- imagine him bringing a date home. Budda bing. Sonnet sees a father walk his daughter from the palace to school. In all, while the palace the largest residential space in Central London with an enormous grounds, it provides a working backdrop for the pageantry of the Monarch. "A stage set" Sonnet remarks. How nice to be invited now and again.

During a Royal visit to China in 1986, Prince Philip described Peking as "ghastly" and told British students: "If you stay here much longer you'll all be slittey-eyed."

Tuesday, March 16

Sarcophagus - Queen - Taxes

This photo of Sonnet taken, I am guessing here, when she was ten though perhaps Stan or Silver can provide some detail. Madeleine keeps the picture with her valuables - she holds it dear - so I pinch it for now to scan and blog. Tomorrow, Madeleine's class will visit the British Museum as they study ancient Egypt. Eitan did the tour last year and took the family back for the highlights including "Ginny," a petrified mummy with a carrot-top hairdo pasted to her ghostly skull. 5,000 years look'n back atcha.

Sonnet at Buckingham Palace for a one-day exhibition showcasing the work of the British clothing industry from the fashion designers to their manufactures, the High Street and the press. This evening she will meet the Queen. Or, at least, the Queen will be present in a small gathering of the Good And The Great. Usually I beg to join these things but tonight no chance - security a maximum given her Royal Highness.

I have lunch with Lars. Since it is a glorious spring day we sit outside and discuss .. taxes. Yes, this a popular subject with ex-pats and rich people (we are not one) as the UK removes non-domicile status (or charges £30K for the privilege) and introduces a 50% tax-rate from April. So far there has not been an exodus but I am concerned when many (most) of my friends talk about leaving London. One could easily set up house in Geneva and pay a 27% tax rate or Hong Kong - 19%. Americans have more difficulty relocating away their burden since Uncle Sam takes his cut from no-matter-where but for my non-US pals: Britain at what price?

Moe corrects my yesterday blog: the piano in my parent's living room a Baby Grand Baldwin.

Monday, March 15

Pied Piper

London a great city for many reasons but my favorite: who knows what pleasure around the next bend? In this case, pictured, I poke my head into St James's cathedral at 11AM to find this wonderful, serious, trio warming up for a noon-time performance. I have them all to myself for about 20 minutes allowing me to reflect upon the the piano with some mild regret - I never paid attention despite my mom's best efforts (my grandparent's imposing Steinway in my parent's living room). The last thing I and Tom Sawyer wanted to do on a summer's afternoon was practice the piano. As life repeats, I feel momentary pangs of guilt that ours not more exposed to music (and I do, dear reader, include the trumpet). There is a balance between structured activities and a kid's freedom and, for now, the kids fairly loaded up. Exhibit A: this blog. We cannot do everything so let us hope we at least do things the Shakespeares sometimes enjoy.

Sunday, March 14

Esher Colts & Crystal Palace

Eitan and I out the door by 8AM for his double-header at Esher in Surrey - to retain KPR's top-of-the-league a double win needed but instead we get a split winning the first and tying the second match in a wild 4-4 thrilla. Eitan scores a go-ahead left footed shot moments before the first-half ends but Esher come back firing and soon up 3-2; KPR ties then Esher 4-3. With a minute to go, Eitan scores the equaliser and our side erupts in joy. It is a cracker, too, spreading two defenders and a gentle tap into the net. His a safe pair of boots the dads comment. 

Eitan's team-mates pound him and he ducks their affection with a charming bashfulness. But wait - the game not over! Esher races down the pitch while our boys distracted and their striker, a strong kid with wavy hair, hits a drifting shot that sails above our defenders towards the top goalpost for a certain goal .. we watch .. Maxime, our splendid goalie, somehow gets a hand on the ball and forces it over the top. Whoopee! Today Maxime the hero as the boys smother him with love before lining up to shake hands with the other side. (Eitan: "In every picture you take of me my hair is messy or untidy.")

From Esher we drive to Crystal Palace so Eitan can swim in the British Gas County Championships which are held at the National Athletic Center. I am so used to grody London pools that a well-designed 50-meter indoor pool, even if dated, catches me by surprise.  Our frogger in two relays and begins by leading off the 4X50 medley relay - backstroke not his best stroke yet he gives his all, coming in last of eight. Later, his 4X50 freestyle team wins their heat - I get a big thumbs up and happy grin as he looks up for me in the stands - but his squad disqualified for an early start. What ref would do this to the 9-10 year olds? For Pete's sake. Eitan is sanguine: "we still won anyway."

Sonnet spends her Mother's Day with Madeleine, who is up late last night making a card: "you are a very good cook" she notes lovingly.

Saturday, March 13


Our neighbours Helen and Martin have a bouncer in their backyard, pictured, which receives a joyous whoop! from the Shakespeares. They are invited to give it a test-run. Eitan says, looking at the photo, "I think it was really fun and big. Uhhhh" (his contented sigh similar, dear reader, to an extra serving of desert and I raise an eyebrow). Martin meanwhile an electrical engineer and I admire the wiring which he did on his own. In the dining room, for instance, a master control connects 16 switches to each ceiling light - or, as Martin says, "to confuse everybody." Me, I think it is genus. It reminds me of Arthur. Their house has all sorts of fun peculiarities like the fold-down stools in the kitchen or the bunson burner like stove. They also have a wonderful border collie, my favorite dog ever, and a pet rat (Madeleine notes that the cage a good one - she should know ). Helen and Martin's daughter engaged yesterday - bravo.