Friday, July 30


We unpack from Italy and prepare for the USA -- I leave tomorrow, followed by the kiddies on Sunday.

As Trailhead Capital's Managing Director and Compliance Officer, I receive a recent clarification from the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA) which decided to apply a "Cold Shoulder" to Daniel Posen, Brian Myerson and Brian Padgett, who made a "deliberate attempt to circumvent the requirement under Rule 9 of the City Code on Takeovers and blah blah." What I was being clarified on, "Cold Shouldering," states that I - as an authorised firm - "should not act, or continue to act, for any of the three .. individuals.. on any transactions to which the Code applies." The ruling surprisingly clear (here is Webster's definition of a 'cold shoulder': "Intentionally cold or unsympathetic treatment; 'got the cold shoulder from an old friend'"). The rarity of a "Cold Shoulder" may suggest the serious nature of the punishment - I mean, nobody wants to receive one even if they are stealing from Grandma's pension.

The FSA, by the way, is an independent non-governmental quasi-judicial body that regulates the UK's financial services industry. The FSA tries to protect the London market-place rather than the individual investor -- a big difference from the SEC. The FSA's board is appointed by the Treasury. In June this year, George Osborne, Britain's new Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced his plan to abolish the FSA and separate its responsibilities between a number of new agencies and the Bank of England. Until the financial collapse, US Republicans loved the FSA since its "framework" non-regulatory - members meant to police themselves inside a code of professional guidelines or be struck. Such irony, then, that the Tories first action is to end it.

Wednesday, July 28

Goodbyes And The Cosa Nostra

We go to the beach one last time before heading to Pescara and the airport.

On the ride, Roberto and I talk about Italy's Mafia which, he notes, replaces the government in Italy's south where people do not otherwise pay taxes. Instead, they pay the cosa nostra. The amount depends on the size of your business or income and, failure to comply, may result in violence or loss of possession or destruction of one's house. People pay and live in fear. The Mafia's stronghold Naples while they control everything from Rome to Sicily -- Italy's south compares to the third world so young men go to Milano bringing their ways with them. I ask how one joins the mafia which, according to Roberto, rakes €90 billion from the economy. "One does not join unless you offer something the Mafia needs. You have to be violent, a member may kill over 100 men in his lifetime. No, it is the family. You are born into the Mafia and taken care of. Then you give back." Burlesconi is from the south and connected to la familia - he is useful and allowed to control the media but, says Roberto, this is changing with the Internet. "People do not understand but the are learning. Unfortunately Italy does not have an opposition party." The next election is in three years - "maybe." As for the church: "they control the largest private bank in Italy (the Vatican owns aprox. one-third of Rome's property and, of course, enjoys its own jurisdiction). The Vatican is protected. They do business with the Mafia. They are in bed together -- it is how the Mafia survives."

Despite it all, Roberto is optimistic. He notes Italy's middle is free from the Mafia and this is a main reason he lives in Tortoreto. He hopes that things will change "perhaps it will take as little as a generation" but he does not seem himself convinced. We wave "arrivederci!" I hope our paths cross again.

Madeleine brings her cork-man to the beach, which she made last night at the dinner table with the wine cork and toothpicks.
Madeleine: "Do you like him more, or less, with a hat?"
Me: "With." (she puts a bottle cap on its head)
Madeleine: "You know it is actually more fun to make something without spending money."
Me: "Since when? Like yesterday?"
Madeleine, indignantly: "No."
Me: "But you love to spend your dough. It burns a hole in your pocket."
Madeleine: "Well, not all the time. It's hard not so spend your money when you're at a place you have never been before."
Me: "On what?"
Madeleine: "Souvenirs" (she gives me a look like I am crazy for not knowing)

Mediterannean Sunset

Hotel Capitano is one block from the beach. Sonnet tells me -- and not surprisingly -- there has been a lot of development since she was here last. The beach front where we are mostly the same but behind us, towards the hills, there are new stucco condominiums in various colours; Roberto points out, horror, a grocery store. This is a small vacation town and not much more to it than that, really. An ancient railway separates the old town from the new and the train's whistle a nice reminder of the evening's hour. Yesterday we are treated to an afternoon cooling shower+rainbow then a beautiful sunset, pictured. We enjoy our last night at a small family pizzeria: Sonnet orders one with gorgonzola with radichio, another with potatoes with rosemary and a third with capers, tuna and tomatoe sauce - washed down with two large bottles of Moretti beer. I eat so much I am nearly sick. The kids stick to their salami pepperoni. Madeleine coos "the best pizza I ever had."

Sonnet: "I think I saw a German family on the beach."
Eitan: "Could you tell because they were wearing socks with their sandals?"

Sonnet asks Eitan to call Madeleine to dinner, which he does at the top of his longs.
Sonnet: "I could have done that."
Eitan: "But you didn't."
Me: "Fair point."

Tuesday, July 27

On Being A Teenager

Over breakfast: what do you kids want be like when you are teenagers?

Eitan: "I want to be like Alex Rider" (from the "Alex Rider" series; sort of like the Hardy Boys)
Me: "Why?"
Eitan: "I don't know. Because he's sporty and doesn't take drugs. Plus he is quite calm under pressure. And he is 14."
Madeleine: "I don't ever want to take drugs or go to 'Fat Sam's every day."
Me: "Fat Sam's?"
Madeleine: "The chicken place (in Sheen). It's called 'Sam's' but I call it 'Fat Sam's.' Billy's sisters go there every day."
Me: "Are they fat?"
Eitan: "Uh, y-e-ah."
Sonnet: "Sam's does not count as food."
Me: "Anything else about being a teenager?"
Together: "No."

Eitan: "Are you going to do anything interesting?"
Me: "Do I ever do anything interesting?"
Eitan: "Well, no."
Me: "Not even when I am being goofy?"
Eitan: "That's just being goofy."
Me: "How about when I am telling a story?"
Eitan: "Can we just go?"


Me: "Shall we go to the beach?"
Madeleine: "I need to rest, Dad."
Me: "Rest? From what?"
Madeleine: "From getting up early to go to the bakery."
Me: "Tough day huh?"
Madeleine: "Yep."

Madeleine serves herself a bowl of chocolate Coco Pops after eating donuts.
Madeleine: "I am going to plant these."
Me: "Getting bored there Madeleine?"
Madeleine: "Yeah" (bolts from the breakfast area).

In the afternoon.
Madeleine: "Dad, we are so bored."
Eitan: "Can we go to the beach? Can we?
Madeleine: "I want to have a nap."
Me: "You want a nap?
Madeleine: "Yes."
Me: "Boy you must be really bored if you want a nap."
Eitan: "Can we go to the beach?"
Eitan: "You can take your computer to the beach, you know."
Eitan: "Can we go to the beach?"
Eitan: "Can... we ... go.. to the beach?"
Eitan: "Dad, please.
Me: "You want to go to the beach?"
Eitan: "Yes."
Eitan: "Dad?"
Eitan: "Dad?"
Eitan: "Dad."
Eitan: "Dad pleassseeee.

Full Deck

We watch a friendly crew across the day arguing, shouting and throwing down cards like nobody's business. Points are kept on a small white scratch pad. These dudes are serious. I like how the various ages find each other - the teens on one side of the lido; mums with their babies or toddlers on the beach under an umbrella or sunbathing. Old codgers .. pictured, having the most fun. Dads sit around sans shirt smoking cigarettes, yelling at the bambinis. Eitan makes a few friends on the sand football pitch .. nobody understands each other but, ah, the joy of sport. They genuinely like each other and I have to drag the boy away at sundown.

I ask Madeleine to go up to our room to get an envelope with some notes on it.
Eitan, eating an ice cream, raises an eyebrow over the unfairness: "Why don't you do something for yourself for once."

Monday, July 26


Sonnet orders "peperosso pizza" and the kids crushed when a red-pepper pizza arrives. They refuse to eat.

Me: "Do you like it here?"
Eitan: "Yes, I think so."
Me: "You don't seem sure."
Eitan: "I guess I am a Sheen kind of guy."

Sonnet: "Tomorrow is our last day in Tortoreto. Let's spend all day at the beach!"
Eitan: "Yeah!"
Madeleine: "I don't want to go the beach."
Me: "That's cool Madeleine-- there is a great museum that we can go to instead. Thanks for reminding me."
Madeleine: "No way am I going to that."
Sonnet: "How about the church? I bet it is well worth seeing."
Me: "We can go to the church and the museum. Let's take a picnic since we should leave right after breakfast."
Madeleine: "Oh, no, you always want to do those things. Why can't we just go to the beach?"

Volley Ball

I sit at a round table blogging and watching Italian television. I recognise the show hosts, or at least their quality, having followed Silvio Berlusconi. Tonight the gals chirp away about Afghanistan and some wildlife. Roberto offers me a double-espresso even though it is after 11PM yet how can I resist? Ten years ago it would have been difficult to travel with work -- but now everything real time even at the beach or sitting, here, in the bar. Tortoreto closes early -- dinners may be late around 9 or 10PM -- followed by a stroll and then .. bed. The hotel staff walk around me preparing for tomorrow wiping tables, putting glasses in their place and smoking a fag or two outside, in the street. The visiting teenagers must be bored out of their minds but otherwise they are sure fun to watch at the lido. How cool that we will soon have a couple of them in our house. Such yuf! Such drama! Will we be prepared?


This afternoon sees some clouds and by sunset the beaches clear as the Italians away for dinner or their families. We enjoy the evening's warmth, reminding ourselves: this is not England in February. The Shakepeares enjoy their freedoms making sand-castles and eating junk food - today, for instance: breakfast, jelly donuts and coco pops; 11AM, crisps. No lunch. 2PM, gelato. To compensate, for dinner I force Eitan to eat his eggplant which draws tears of protest. I threaten to join him at the table until Midnight or until the eggplant gone. He tentatively forks the eggplant then makes regurgitation noises before anything in his mouth. The two tables nearby us stair. I order him: eat! He chews a few times then swallows, grimacing in pain. Even Madeleine stops what she is doing (making a doll with a wine cork and toothpicks) to watch how far dad will go to prove a point. Eat, I command. The next bite goes down just as dramatically leaving one more strip+a plate of tomatoes. Sonnet suggests I am being a bit rough on the boy but then: 100 others are eating the God damn eggplant. Eitan can, too. Madeleine offers to share his piece but no: he.. will.. eat.. the eggplant himself. Finally he finishes leaving the tomatoes. I decide the tomatoes a battle for another night. What theatre.

Sonnet and I are experimenting with the children being on their own. We ask (order?) them to spend a half hour together by themselves - they head for a gelato and the gift shop so Madeleine can spend her €10. God bless. They are anxious but it has to happen sometime. Eitan will begin walking to school by himself from September. Here seems as safe a place as any to start. By the fourth grade I was catching the number 7 bus from Grove St and Center St or walking home through campus. Sonnet worries about traffic or abduction but both kids aware. It is part of the growing up, no?

Civitella Aerea

We walk through the inhabited 14th century village before the fortress (the modern escalators of course "guasto"). Here one may find the narrowest street in Italy set up, I am sure, 500 years ago for i turisti. The kids, by this point, so tired they are in tears so we sit themin front of a gilat doppio at the bar - nobody bats an eye. The photo, from the www, does not show the mountains behind us nor give a sense of the steep hillside which made this such an important, and impenetrable, military installation.

Sunday, July 25

Alto Tortoreto

I awake this morning to espresso and Mirella's morning lemon cake which is fabuloso. The kids smother theirs with Nutello and blast off. We have another espresso with the neighbors. Costantinos is adding four bedrooms to his house ("Normally I start with the house then the swimming pool. But I wanted to use the pool before I was 70."). Since he is learning as he goes, we practices with a dog-house for the four dogs ("la familia"; Madeleine smitten). Yes, I am invited to help which, a bit slow from montepulciano+30 degrees by 9AM, not my first idea for the morning but it turns into joy: we rip off a roof, pull and hammer nails, re-roof and cover with insulation... shirts off, yelling at the women or the bambinis .. all the while giving each other grief (him: "la professora"; me: "the apprentice."). We quit by noon for more pasta and wine and fruit; Constantinos sings opera and I join him (montepulciano) and even the Shakespeares overcome their bashfulness. They will remember this.

From lunch, we drive to the 13th century Fortress of Civitella del Tronto, one of the most impressive works of military engineering in Italy: a hill-city below a stone fortification over 500 meters long and 25,000 square feet. The structure an insurmountable bulwark for the enemies of the northern borders of the many Neapolitan realms (unfortunately my camera battery dies so I have no photographs). Madeleine and I walk the perimeter looking at the surrounding valleys, mountains and steep inclines to the fortress' base and wonder: would it be better to die from boiling oil or arrow through the heart? She wants to know if the boiling-oil can be hurled "by a slingshot" and I tell her I would rather go quickly, but oil might do better against an all-out effort to scale the walls. She ponders this as I describe boiling skin and sizzling eyeballs; guts spilled on the bloody ground and gore everywhere. I think she would enjoy the Midievil period - I seem to.

Mirella Costantinos

We spend a remarkable 24 hours in the countryside with our new friends Mirella and Costantinos. Mirella is the daughter of Tonino di Menico and she invites us to her house for the afternoon which turns into dinner which turns into late night and a sleep-over. I cannot recall similar such hospitality. We visit nearby Tortoreto Alto which is in the hills above Tortoreto with buildings that date to the 14th century including Chiesa di Sant' Agostino which is opened to us especially by an historian who is friends with Mirella - she calls him on her mobile and he arrives - pronto! - ten minutes later. The church founded in the 15th century and reconstructed in the 17th; the most important work of art is a painting by Mattia Preti of the baptism of St Agostino, a gift from the Pope, for Tortoreto's gifts of their worldly goods. We also enjoy an impromptu organ concert and are invited up a narrow staircase into the organ chamber to watch the professor play Ave Maria and other local hits. Sonnet wishes her father could have been there as Stan once played the organ for the local Catholic church in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

To get to Alto, we pile into Costantinos truck which gets a nervous look from Sonnet but the kids love it. Mirella drives slowly and the drivers behind us move within a foot of our bumper gesticulating with fury despite the winding road and four kids+me in the carriage. I guess they have somewhere to go in a hurry. Dinner maybe? In our case, Mirella prepares the most amazing cured ham, aubergine and tomatoes from the garden; pasta and home-made sausages of multi-variety including my favorite, liver. 15 years ago Turino had seven then a heart attack. We all laugh since he is fine now but he no longer eats so many. At least at once.

Costantinos is an expert gardener and we discuss the possibility of a green roof at 45 York. He goes into his portfolio to show us what we may expect - the kids become involved and we agree some combination of wild flowers and herbs (it is now past Midnight). Madeleine offers blackberries. My first concern whether, in fact, the intended roof outside Eitan's bedroom, will hold up. I suggest Mom, who does not let us have dinner in the living room, would be none to pleased with a ton of dirt on her new carpet. Eitan snickers at that one.

Saturday, July 24

Flower Girl

The market arrives, as it does every Saturday morning during summer, right next to our hotel filling the street with vegetables, cheeses, clothes, zucchini flowers, bracelets, bathing suits, underwear (me, loudly: "Madeleine, should we get you some pants?"), olives+an enormous roast pig sold either by weight or in buns as sandwiches which brings back memories of Lago di Albano where the Pope has his summer palace and Sonnet, Bru and I ate the most wonderful pork sandwiches and watched Roma football on a black and white television. This some many years ago now. From the stalls we head to the beach while Madeleine confined to a tee-shirt and canopy due to her delicate red skin. Our lobster is a trooper. Eitan befriends a group of seven or eight older boys who play sand football. None speak english so they point and jab at each other. Eitan's need for footie overcomes his reluctance; he has been watching them the past two days. It remains unbearably hot though I am not complaining - jogging nearly wipes me out. A summer storm blanks the beach and brings down the temps momentarily. Sonnet, Madeleine and I play "Crazy Eights" at the lido watching the storm pass over. Later, we send the Shakespeares down the block, by themselves, to get gelato. All this before lunchtime.

The kids read Simpson comics.
Me: "Do you think Homer Simpson is a good dad?"
Eitan: "Well, he's a normal dad."
Me: "Why is he a normal dad?"
Eitan, bored: "He drinks a lot of beer and he works at a nuclear power plant and stuff."
Me: "Am I a normal dad?"
Madeleine: "No way!"
Eitan: "Well, on the outside you are but inside - you're mad."
Me: "What is a normal dad?"
Madeleine: "He doesn't tell you off. He drinks three bottles of wine a week. He doesn't care if you miss school."
Me: "So how am I doing?"
Madeleine: "You drink more than three bottles of wine a week."

Friday, July 23


We are to the beach by 9AM. This follows a perfect cappucino which gets Sonnet and me going vrrooom. I am mostly content to sit under the canopy while the Shakespeares try their best to drag me in the water. Why spoil it? I tap away on my blackberry which raises Sonnet's eyebrow but it does make me happy. It is good to be busy even on holiday. Madeleine sunburns like a lobster.

This afternoon we visit Delia, pictured, who has a huge affection for Silver (they have not seen each other since '81 in Naples, where the di Domenico family lives when not it Tortoreto). Delia tells us how she taught Silver to make stuffed zuchini which won an award in an Alaska cooking contest -- Delia still has the newspaper clipping sent to her by Silver (this BTW gets a laugh from Sonnet who does not otherwise recall her mother being an enthusiastic cook). Delia owns a garden patch behind her house with luscious red tomatoes and smokes like a chimney; she calls Silver "argento" or Italian for silver. Sonnet recalls the first time she was here the di Domenico apartment half-finished so the living space one big open air terrace. Sonnet says "ten women would come to chat; Delia was the grand poobah. Each would stop by and buzz the door and sit on the terrace and drink coffee or wine and chat." One evening Silver showed the ladies her American bras and they thought - exclaimed! - that it was a marvel of technology with the wires and techno-fabrics and all that. This was '78 after all. In another instance, Sonnet brought her then boyfriend Pino to Naples. Delia asked - "so, are you engaged?" Sonnet replied no and Delie said: "So, why are you here?" Good point, I may suggest, 19 years later.

Sonnet and Madeleine look at statues of the Virgin Mary in the holiday shop.
Madeleine: "Wow, there must be a lot of Jewish people in this country."

Thursday, July 22


Sonnet and the kids arrive yesterday in Tortoreto on Italy's eastern side straight across from Rome. I arrive today following late meetings in Knightsbridge. Tortoreto is a beach town that exists from May to September and nestled on the Abruzzo coast surrounded by dry hillsides covered by olive trees and wine vineyards; I am told by Roberto, who picks me up at the airport, that this region is known for its montelpuciano, a well regarded red wine. My photo of the Zeffiro Lido where our Hotel Capitano has its beach chairs and a crew of teen-agers hangs out infatuating on each other. I like these Italians.

Sonnet's family vacationed here 32 years ago as a way for Marcus to recover from his eye surgery. Stan and Silver were looking for a family-style location filled with sun and good food; they did not want a fancy resort - they wished"to be with the people" Sonnet says. The family introduced to Tortoreto by Captain Monti, who was the captain of a Pirelli cable ship which was docked in Anchorage as Pirelli laying cable off the coast of Alaska. Stan met Monti several years before through the Chamber of Commerce and invited him to dinner. Monti's workers from the Pirelli factory in Naples vacationed in Tortoreto including the di Domenico family whose brother owned the hotel where Sonnet stayed then and we stay now. The di Domenicos adopted Sonnet's family in 1978 -- this is where Silver learned to make eggplant parmigiana and Sonnet learned her first Italian. Sonnet recalls being sent to the local bar with an empty glass bottle to request a refill, which was cheaper than Coca Cola. She now brings a photograph of her and the di Domenico family which provokes exclamations of recognition from a bygone time. They are amazed at how Tonino looked. Madonna!

Monday, July 19

Super Sonnet

Sonnet and I have lunch in town near the American Embassy. I am at the American Embassy because my temporary US passport, which cannot be renewed .. expired .. ten days before .. I am to travel to America for the summer holidays. Don't ask, it is all good.

Sooo.. Sonnet looks better than when we first met, June 6, 1993: she is certainly in equal shape. This morning, for instance, she bolts at the crack of dawn for a five mile run. Yesterday, it was ten. She plans to compete in a half-marathon this autumn. 

 As most of you may know, Sonnet has been on a work-sabbatical which ends in September. It has flown by, to, leaving me and the kids to wonder: how on earth are we going to survive when she is back at the V and A? Doomsday, prepare thyself. For now, though, Sonnet has taken control of the house re-organising about everything including the garage, put in time as a 'class rep' for Madeleine's classroom and volunteered for the Summer Fair. She has planned our summer holiday, ensures the kids greased up with sun-tan lotion every day, helps clean Tommy's cage and lends the occasional hand in the backyard. 

Sonnet enforces a strict homework policy and takes Madeleine through her word-spelling over Cheerios; she reads Eitan's latest book ("Storm Breaker," kids action adventure) to make sure it is not too violent (it is pretty violent). She makes the kids school lunches, shuffles them to A) Madeleine's trumpet, B) Eitan's tutor, C) after-school football, D) swimming -- which, I might point out, is 7AM on Sunday, E) various play-dates and F) school drop-offs and pick-ups should (E) not be in effect. She gets the kids to their sleep-overs and birthday parties -- she plans Eitan's 10th which will likely involve wall-climbing. 

She anticipates secondary school -- two years from now, holy cow -- attending open-houses, marking exam dates and returning admission forms; she does so without freaking the Shakespeares out ("they feel enough pressure" she says). She makes it fun. She keeps it real. And, hardest chore of all, she puts up with up with yours, truly (like today at the Embassy - near daily occurrence). Madeleine and I high-five each other: "we've got mom in the house."

Eitan hums "When Doves Cry" by Prince while doing his homework.

Eitan races down the stairs, screaming: "I lost a tooth!"
Sonnet, rolling eyes: "Not this one again."

Sunday, July 18

Entrepreneurial Britain

I have railed against the UK's inability to create an environment conducive for business start-ups before so I am happy to eat some words: over the last twelve months 395,327 new companies have registered at Companies House (source: electronic data publisher Bureau van Dijk). This is more than 1,000 a day. Over the last 25 years there has only been one year with more registrations - 2006-07, the height of the last boom. It is also three times the number at the equivalent time of the last recession. So what gives? Well, redundancy for one. The economy has shed nearly 2.5 million jobs since 2007 with termination packages funding new businesses. Second, the possibility of e-commerce or services driving many's ambition to have their own company. And for others: nothing concentrates the mind like walking the plank.

In the US, which faced a similar, massive, corporate downsizing in the 1980s, venture investment picked up the slack. Thanks to a number of public successes in venture-backed companies like DEC, Apple and Genetech, the Valley grew from a few dozen firms, including Bill's Centennial funds, to over 650 by the end of the 1980s, each searching for the next Big Thing. While the number of firms may have multiplied, the capital increased by only 11% from $28 billion to $31 billion (source: Andrew Pollack, NYT, 1989). The result: companies raising venture capital had to remain capital-efficient, not wasting a penny. This period set the stage for California's golden-era of venture capital from 1985 to 1995 when companies like Microsoft created billions of value; by 1996 we were heading into the the boom which, inevitably (sadly), resulted in hubris and the 2000 crash that Sand Hill Road still recovers from today -- many good MBAs who raised a fund in '99 or '00 will never work again. The numbers show it, to: in '94, venture investment equalled of .058% of GDP; in 2000, it was 1.087% or 19X '94 levels (yours truly jumped into the mix in '99).

Well, the point of my blog is this: corporate US was forced to modernise in the 1980s given the Japanese and other market pressures. Big Business rationalised via mergers and acquisitions and down-sizing creating America's "rust-belt" in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. It also freed up an enormous amount of baby-boomer talent still young in their careers: by 1982, unemployment was 10.8%. These dudes needed a spark and, thanks in large part to venture dollars, they started companies and unemployment fell. And fell. By Reagan's second term, America's jobless below 5.5%. Without California, the US would have looked like Germany. Or Japan today. Could the same process of rejuvenation somehow be happening in Britain today?

Madeleine: "Do hamsters always smell the same?"
Me: "Well, if a hamster sleeps in his own urine for a week he probably will smell different. If that's what you mean."
Madeleine: "I am going to clean Tommy's cage tomorrow."

Photo of Elizabeth Swann walking the plank from the WWW.

Saturday, July 17

Eastward, Ho!

I take an eastward photo from Vauxhall Bridge walking from the train station to Tate Britain with Sonnet and Madeleine to see the Henry Moore retrospective (Madeleine: "Oh, no, pleeaaaase not a museum. I would rather do chores"). Sonnet likes the photo as, she says, "London not recognisable from what one normally sees." We can really tell here how much water moves between high and low tide - about 70,000 million gallons. Wow. Sonnet and I have Madeleine to ourselves, an unusual pleasure, as Eitan at Luke's birthday party and overnight. After the museum we pick up several films for "movie night" - Madeleine gets "Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium" and "Night At The Museum;" she will will also make meat loaf for dinner using her grandfather's world famous recipe.

Here is what the Tate says about Moore:

"Radical, experimental and avant-garde, Henry Moore (1898–1986) was one of Britain's greatest artists. This stunning exhibition takes a fresh look at his work and legacy, presenting over 150 stone sculptures, wood carvings, bronzes and drawings.

Moore rebelled against his teachers' traditional views of sculpture, instead taking inspiration from non-Western works he saw in museums. He pioneered carving directly from materials, evolving his signature abstract forms derived from the human body. This exhibition presents examples of the defining subjects of his work, such as the reclining figure, mother and child, abstract compositions and drawings of wartime London. The works are situated in the turbulent ebb and flow of twentieth-century history, sometimes uncovering a dark and erotically charged dimension that makes us look at them in a new light. The trauma of war, the advent of psychoanalysis, new ideas of sexuality, primitive art and surrealism all had an influence on Moore's work.

Highlights of the show include a group of key reclining figures carved in Elm, which illustrate the development of this key image over his career. Moore was an Official War Artist and his drawings of huddled Londoners sheltering from the onslaught of the Blitz captured the popular imagination, winning him a place in the hearts of the public. Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to truly understand this artist's much-loved work / Britain's most successful sculptor."

This morning the boy in action with his KPR in a tournament where the Blues lose, draw twice and win one game -- not enough to advance, which is a bummer for the boys who have worked hard against good teams from the Premiere league, two divisions above them. This encouraging for next season, which begins in October as we will be division-one (one below Premiere) facing more skilled competition.

Thursday, July 15

Watering And Double Dip

Madeleine helps out with the watering. All too soon winter will be upon us but, for now, the sun shines late and August ahead. Sonnet takes the Shakespeares to Primrose Hill to meet Dana and Nathan's newest project, baby Sierra. Bravo!

Reuters reports today that UK fund managers are hoarding cash which is now 9% of of their combined portfolio. This is the highest level since Lehman failed in October 2008. Europeans are playing a similar card. So we must wonder: will restive cash fuel the next stock-market rally or sit tight? Bank of America Merill Lynch thinks the latter, suggesting that the hopes for global recovery have turned negative - a net 12% of fund managers expect a weaker economic outlook over the next year compared to a net 42% expecting a stronger outlook only two months ago. On other metrics, including sharply declining hedge fund exposure, risk aversion is back at levels last seen in the dark days of March 2009. Earlier this summer, the City gearing up for an anticipated wave of mergers and acquisitions by staffing aggressively. So who does one believe - the money managers or the investment banks?

On the double dip (from Seinfeld):
(George takes a large tortilla chip, dips it into a bowl of dip, takes a bite, dips it into the bowl again, and then eats the remainder of the chip)
Timmy: What are you doing?
George: What?
Timmy: Did, did you just double dip that chip?
George: Excuse me?
Timmy: You double dipped the chip!
George: Double dipped? What, what are you talking about?
Timmy: You dipped the chip. You took a bite, *points at the dip* and you dipped again.
George: So?
Timmy: That's like putting your whole mouth right in the dip. From now on, when you take a chip, just take one dip and end it.
George: Well, I'm sorry, Timmy, but I don't dip that way.
Timmy: Oh, you don't, huh?
George: No. You dip the way you wanna dip. I'll dip the way I wanna dip.
(George grabs another chip, dips it, takes a bite and begins to reach for the dip as Timmy grabs his hand)
Timmy: Gimme the chip!
(The argument becomes an all-out brawl between George and Timmy)

Wednesday, July 14

La Fête Nationale

So, Bastille Day - it commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July, 1789; the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. Le President used to give an interview to members of the press discussing, well, France like recent events and projects and stuff. Nice things. Nicolas Sarkozy has chosen not to give it. Article 17 of the Constitution of France gives the President the authority to pardon criminals and, since 1991, the President has pardoned many petty offenders (mainly traffic offices) on 14 July. President Sarkozy has declined to do so. No wonder he is unpopular.

Paris remains my favorite city and I am blessed to have gotten to know her. Soon I will re-union with Astorg Partners on their Fund V - maybe €one billion - which will allow plenty of channel crossings I'm sure. Astorg is a special firm who began its history inside Suez S.A. and allowed to separate when Suez merged with Lyonnaise General Des Eaux in '97 forming a water, gas and electricity conglomerate with no need for private equity. Astorg had some separation anxiety losing two partners while struggling to meet their fundraising targets. Investors who took the leap have been rewarded: Astorg has killed it with top-quartile performance and a number of huge exits including GeoServices earlier this year which went to Schlumberger for 7X cost.

Here is my French factoid for the day: according to Boston Consulting, there are 280,000 US dollar millionaires living in France in 2010, or 0.45% of the total population.

Me: "What do you think of France?"
Eitan: "I like the Alps."
Madeleine: "I like the Eiffel Tower. And the chocolate croissants."
Eitan: "And the crepes with chocolate and banana."
Madeleine: "Yes! Definitely with chocolate. I also like the plain ones."

Monday, July 12


Sonnet appropriately attired for bowling Saturday night. She is a bit concerned by her exposed midriff but I sure love looking at it. Justin BTW turns 4-0 in style, surrounded by family and friends, making sure each of us feels special. This is one of his many exceptional qualities.

Silver corrects me: she was not in Sheffield in '81 on a Fulbright but rather a work-sabbatical from the University of Alaska.

Sunday, July 11

Red Light - Neighbors - More Yard Work And The World Cup

Sonnet last night at the bowling lanes.

Today England marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, which went from July to October in 1940 and likely saved the Free World from the Nazis. Churchill thought so. During that time, RAF made continuous daily sorties to fight off the Luftwaffe, losing over 3,000 planes and 500 pilots. To mark the anniversary, celebrations take place in Kent where the last flying Spitfire makes fly-bys over the chalky coastline - the Spitfire a beautiful plane whose unique sound recognisable to most British but especially those older than a certain age.

We have our neighbors Lev and Ali to brunch and learn that their Grandfather brought the family from Cyprus to London while establishing a substantial community around him in the 1950s. His business food and, at one point by the 1970s, he owned the largest fast-food franchise in Britain: Wimpy's, which was also the UK's first fast food restaurant. Sonnet remembers them in Sheffield when she was there in '81 with Silver, who was on a Fulbright Scholarship. McDonald's arrived in '73, which was the beginning of the end for Wimpy's (Lev's grandfather noted, with horror, "no silverware !"). Today Lev owns four upscale London restaurants and employs 120 people serving "Ottoman" cuisine. I have not been but will certainly go next.

I enlist the Shakespeares and together we complete the yard work which nets six green bags to the dump. I attack a pine tree in front of the house which takes care of my yesterday. My reward: blisters and a sore back. But it does feel nice to complete a project. Eitan at a World Cup Party with Joe and Cyrus; Madeleine a Sunday over-night with Jackson. Can it really be this quiet?

Spain v. Holland in the WC Final - kick-off in 20.

Summer In The City

I catch this dude watching the street as a train passes by. It is about 8:30PM, hot, and noisy. I am reminded of my first apartment in New York on 6th Avenue and Waverly Street. A fire escape allowed us to sit above the pedestrians and watch the scene; in one direction we had a clear view of the World Trade Towers and the other, nondescript sky-scrapers. This was Greenwich Village and there were always hordes of people going .. somewhere. In July and August, the fire escape our only relief. We would sit out there on the summer nights and drink beer talking about ourselves or careers or relationships. The transition from college not easy and that first year seemed like a lot of make-believe. Or maybe it was practice for our so-called "adult life." I wish I could say that period was more fun but First Boston was more than I was prepared for.

We are on are way to All Star Lanes, a bowling center where Justin celebrates his 4oth with friends and family. We have a private room with three lanes and a cocktail bar - important, dear reader, for improving one's performance. After four mojitos I am bowling like a pro. Natalie organises seven teams and we compete - luckily for me, I am with JP, an old college friend now living in St John's Wood, and a ringer. JP actually knows the bowling rules - not that this is like Cricket or anything - there are things one can know and understand: like a strike or spare on the last pins allows the bowler another go.. up to three times if she hits strikes each time. We hit our stride in this fashion and .. win .. which probably means my team the most lubed up. Or at least, well paced. Who says drinking an unproductive sport?

Sonnet: "We are looking into an au pair for fall."
Eitan: "Nooo. I don't want somebody living in our house."
Sonnet: "Well, we will just try it out and see."
Madeleine: "If we get an au pair does that mean we can get a dog?"


We are on Brick Lane last night and wow, what a scene. Recall this in the London borough of Tower Hamlets and is the heart of the city's Bangladeshi-Sylheti community; it also known as Banglatown - there is a super-market with this name. The street is narrow and populated with curry shops whose proprietors streetside, cajoling: "please come in. Best in London." We stroll by the Great Mosque, once known as the London Jamme Masjid, which serves the largest concentration of Bangladeshi Muslims in the country. The mosque was under investigation some years ago for radicalising young men who, this evening, in shawar kamise, watch the bustle with half interest. Brick Lane once an oddity where one might go for a late dinner or the 24 hour Beigal Bakery whose salt beef sandwiches perfect for post-clubbing -- so good, in fact, the Sunday morning queues begin from 4AM. Today Brick Lane remarkably shifts into an uber cool ghetto as young gay couples and artists colonised this part of London from the late '90s. The vibe amazing - young people search for restaurants and clubs and bars, which spill into the street. Cars stall and honk away to no effect. The brick a Victorian turd brown which further defines the scene somehow. An enormous smokestack points into the sky. It is dense, man. Many of the inhabitants pierced with dyed hair and sometimes tattoos. The boys clean wearing skinny jeans+tees+brown topsiders. Tres vogue. Girls show too much t & a for their age (I will fight that battle with Madeleine when the time comes). We park on a side road in midst of council housing - concrete - massive - gruesome. But then it is relative - compared to Dhaka this might be heaven. We hide anything that might tempt fate. What a scene.

I mention to Eitan that using my blackberry costs money, which receives a curious look.
Me: "How do you think blackberry make money?"
Eitan: "Cheating?"
Me: "Think about it."
Eitan: "Bargains?"
Me: "You can do better."
Eitan: "How should I know?"
Me: "Well, if you want a blackberry, do they just give it to you?"
Eitan: "No."
Me: "You have to pay money for it. Do you think it costs blackberry more or less to make a blackberry then to sell it?"
Eitan: "Less?"
Me: "Good. If you pay blackberry £100 and it costs them £90 to make, they have made a profit. Now what happens if blackberry makes a lot of units -- does each unit cost the same?"
Me: "Let us assume that to make one blackberry, it costs £100; two blackberries, £190 and three blackberries £270. This is because some costs, like the factory, don't change or are 'fixed.' If we sell at £100, are we better off making and selling one or three blackberries?
Me: "If we sell a lot of blackberries, can blackberry charge you less yet still make a per unit profit?"
Me: "What happens if somebody tries to do the same thing? Can they compete on cost at first?"
Me: "That, my friend, is what business school calls 'economies of scale.'"
Eitan: "Can I just watch the World Cup highlights dad?"

Saturday, July 10


London weather reaches for 90 and it feels hotter. While uncomfortable, New York was the worst by late July or August - the humidity and heat unbearable and, back in the day, no air conditioning. Pity my first flat on 6th Avenue shared with three college friends.. my room in the middle with a window looking into a dark air shaft which offered no relief. When Sonnet and I on Riverside Drive, her poor cat would stretch out like a sausage with legs extended as wide as possible to maximise surface area and the chance of a breeze. Dominique slept a lot in the summer. While the cat napped, I commuted on NYC's subways and while the trains cool we were all jammed up on each other forced to read the depressing advertisements for hemorrhoid removal or adult education or other things relevant to us working class schleps. Then there was the walk to the sky scraper- does Midtown have one tree? I cannot recall it. Yes, these were trying times enough to make anyone crazy but then there were awesome moments, too, like Sheep's Meadow or being on the street at 3AM wearing jeans and a tee shirt. Maybe drinking coffee and planning Sunday.

Sat Morning

The house falls asleep late given the July heat. This does not stop Sonnet from up-early to run a loop of Richmond Park with Stephanie. She laments afterwards: too hot. I sleep until 9AM which gets a couple of curious looks from the kids who poke their head in to see the lazy lunker that I am. Sometimes it must be done. This otherwise is a quiet week end - no football for Eitan and Madeleine leaves her swim suit at school. Smart kid.

Me: "Madeleine do you have something to say?"
Madeleine: "About what?"
Me: "I don't know. For my blog."
Madeleine: "No."
Me: "What are you reading?"
Madeleine: "The 'Toilet of Doom.'"
Me: "Is that a book?
Sonnet: "Yes."
Me: "Does your teacher know about it?"
Sonnet: "No."
Me: "Well, I guess you're reading."
Sonnet: "Yep."
Madeleine: "Leave me alone, Ok?"

Friday, July 9

Pick Up

Here we are the other day at the school pick-up. Sonnet and Ms. L may be talking about Madeleine's maths, which has improved considerably this year, or her reading - top marks. It could also be a discussion about Madeleine's friends -- all boys -- who want to play with .. other boys. Eitan went through this stage last year when girls were the enemy, so I can understand how this effects our dear, committed Tom Boy. Not easy. We keep a watchful eye including Eitan, who looks out for his sister on the playground.

Today is a scorcher for London - 30-degrees Celsius (86F) and instantly the city transformed. I have a few morning meetings then make calls and lounge in Green Park. The grass is dry while the trees remain in full-green and the lunch crowd arrives with women in their cute summer dresses and the lads with jacket off and sleeves rolled high. Everybody in a good mood and why not? It is Friday; the August hols around the corner and this is a young crowd. Tonight most will be full of life and completely wasted, which is the thing to do here especially when the weather nice. Hooking up is in the air. As Eric says to me today: "Everything is good when you are 21." Me, I look forward to taking the boy to swimming practice, going for a run along the Thames, then having a dry martini and late supper with Sonnet. Were every day so good.

Wednesday, July 7

Fee Charging Gambling Den

We have dinner with Puk and Lars, whose book - "Money Mavericks - Confessions of a Hedge Fund Manager" - will be available from 21 July. The story describes the inner workings of .. a hedge fund which, until his retirement from the industry several years ago, was Lars' career. I recall we discussed his strategy and money-raising in '02 at the trendy private members club "Home House" which, now, somehow seems appropriate. It takes a special person to write about his experience before 40 and Lars is, indeed, that special dude: before founding hedge-fund Holte Capital, he worked for HBK (>$5 billion under management) and HBS and Harvard undergrad. He is a natural cynic who refuses to overpay for anything - good qualities for somebody managing your money. I recall him being impressed when, at a party at his place in Notting Hill and as a joke, I brought a £2 bottle of wine; he immediately took a glass for me and himself, heartily enjoyed. In all these things, talent and vision matter while having the nuts to go for it is often under-rated (or forgotten in success or failure). Lars followed his dream when the timing good and so, as they say, the rest is history.
Lars' book described thus:

"Money Mavericks: Confessions of a Hedge Fund Manager charts the founding, seemingly interminable rise and eventual closure of a fund which operated in London during the febrile years of 2002 to 2008. Shedding light on the incredible inside workings of hedge funds, it's a tale of a bubble industry in a bubble town during the bubble years. It tells the story of some very smart people who were trying to do something that was incredibly hard: beat the market. If they failed, the repercussions would be swift and severe. If they succeeded, the rewards would be massive. Having grown from a small and mainly US investment activity to become a global trillion-dollar circus, the hedge fund industry is often unfairly portrayed as a fee-charging gambling den.

"I was immersed in the hedge fund industry for years and now I want to address the myths and misperceptions that surround the hedge funds. I often feel that my six years of running HolteCapital was one long blur of human drama with triumph and failure following each other in quick and merciless succession. If you have ever been given the impression that the world of hedge funds is driven by meticulously-planned and well-coordinated dark forces, I hope my story will enlighten you."
--Lars Kroijer - Money Mavericks