Thursday, May 31

Simon And A Kayak

Simon, pictured, introduces me to a kayak.  We meet at the Chiswick pier where I am kitted with a kayak, a double-sided paddle and a life-vest plus a hearty "good luck" and, just like that, I am floating.  The ducks and geese pay me no mind; a coot floats by and the moorhens , with a red flash, about everywhere. I also see a crested grebe and a heron (who eats a fish which seems halfway caught in its long skinny neck).  It is hot and the banks lush with greenery. The water brown and opaque. Joggers whizz by while the serious rowers stroke in unison: puff, puff, puff!  I stay away from them.

I love the eccentricity of it all of course. A relaxing way to see London. When landed, Simon keeps his kayak in front of his house on the Chiswick Mall (unlocked) and feet from the water so he may go for a float whenever he should wish. It suits him : born in Florence, educated at Oxford and now a venture capitalist - I would expect him to take exercise in no other fashion.

Me: "Which cereal are you having?"
Madeleine: "Coco Sugar Pops."
Me: "How about the Fruit Loops?"
Madeleine: "They only had Honey Loops, which are like Cheerios with honey."
Me: "Mmm."
Madeleine: "Eitan always eats the ones he doesn't like first and saves the best ones for last."
Me: "It's a good strategy."
Madeleine: "Yeah, I guess. If you are Eitan."

Wednesday, May 30

Airport '77 And A Big Bag Of Sweets

I watch 'Airport 77' which enthralled me when I was ten years old. Flying was a big deal and the idea of a plane sinking to the bottom of the ocean with its crew on board - holy catfish, that's exciting stuff.  It is just like watching the Love Boat  with all the ancients making a last pay check before the grave: Jimmy Stewart, Olivia de Haviland, Jack Lemmon, George Kennedy .. all over-acting and projecting the best time of their life.  And the clothes! Brown suits, plaids, bow ties and bell bottoms.  Wide collars and suit vests. ..  Who needs a plot ?

But what a plot! The plane at the Bermuda Triangle ! with a bunch of stolen art ! and the coast guard ! races to save the crew !!  All the personalities come together : the rich drunk middle-age woman having the inappropriate affair, the underpaid pilot in love with the woman once scorned, the silver haired businessman with a hidden agenda. The black bar tender just like Isaac.  They are all together when the jumbo goes down. And down and down. An early version of Pong makes an appearance in the air plane cabin.  The plane inches to a deep sea precipice.

It almost makes the '70s look fun accept for , you know, Jimmy Carter and the Viet Nam war.

Me: "What would you rather have, a big bag of sweets or a chocolate bar?"
Madeleine: "A big bag of sweets."
Me: "A big bag of sweets or chocolate cake?"
Madeleine: "A big bag of sweets."
Me: "A big bag of sweets or chocolate cake and ice cream?"
Madeleine: "A big bag of sweets."
Me: "A big bag of sweets or your birthday. . ."
Made: "My birthday. Because I would have a big bag of sweets."
Me: "A big bag of sweets or a big bag of sweets and the television."
Madeleine: "A big bag of sweets plus the TV."
Me: "A big bag of sweets or a big bag of sweets and the TV and Rusty at your feet?"
Madeleine: "A big bag of sweets and the TV and Rusty."
Me: "Is that the pinnacle then? Is there anything better ?"
Madeleine: "A big bag of sweets, being in bed listening to Harry Potter and Rusty in my room.  And it would be raining."
Me: "That sounds about perfect to me."
Madeleine: "Yeah."

"All new, bigger, and more exciting than AIRPORT 1975!"--Poster tagline from Airport '77.

Summer Roses

This year we did not have much of a spring given the record-setting rainfall in April and the first half of May. Now, though, the garden in bloom including my roses, pictured.

Since Sonnet and Eitan both away, I do what any self-respecting single parent would do when granted the opportunity: I buy Madeleine sugar cereal and ice cream, which we finish off in front of the television way past her bedtime.

“Green was the silence, wet was the light,
the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”

--Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

Tuesday, May 29

Self Portrait XXV

Here is how much the US government will spend on my protection in 2012 : $ 531B base budget+$115 B for overseas contingency operations (source: The Pentagon)

But there is more. After adjusting for double counting and offsetting receipts, America will spend $125B on veterans, $49B for seperate retirement funds, $42B on homeland security, $22B on foreign military sales and aid, and $18B on nuclear programs. Throw in $58B to cover a fair share of the government's military related interest cost and the total is .. .$960B. Give or take . (Source: Financial Times). This is 6% of GDP and 26% of Federal spending.

Repub contender Mitt Romney on Memorial Day :
"We have two courses we can follow: One is to follow in the pathway of Europe, to shrink our military smaller and smaller to pay for our social needs. The other is to commit to preserve America as the strongest military in the world, second to none, with no comparable power anywhere in the world."

Madejski Garden

Sonnet shows a few friends around Ballgowns including Puk, pictured, and here we are sitting in the John Madejski Garden in the center of the V&A. An underutilised London treasure.  Lars wants me to swim the English Channel with him which I politely decline. I must take his offer seriously since he completed an Iron Man inside 14 hours last year. This from scratch ten months before .

Sonnet and Stan to Atlanta where they will stay with Shelton and  maybe see Bill.  Shelton has made a museum introduction for Sonnet regarding her La Moda exhibition (recall Shelton was the  President and CEO of the Atlanta Woodruff Center including the Atlanta Art Museum plus a number of performing arts spaces and raised a couple hundred million dollars to get the thing built).  Since Eitan in France it is just me and Madeleine, who gives me a dubious look over her cereal bowl.

Monday, May 28

Dog's Life

Rusty , Memorial Day weekend.


The Thames, until the 19th Century, an open sewer which led to cholera : water in, water out.  By the 1850s London's population surpassed two million , all using the river for, which had become so God awful that the smell alone closed government  - rugs hung from Parliament windows to block the foul elements.  

Enter Joseph Bazalgette, a civil engineer and Chief Engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works, who was tasked with moving a lot of shit.  Without him, London could not have remained the world's most populated city until '52 when Tokyo became bigger (London peaked BTW at 8.6 million in 1939 ; today the city holds around 7.8 million, 24th in the world, according to the UN).

Balagette's sewage network, in operation today my goodness, moves waste along the Thames Valley corridor to the Thames Estuary via six main interceptor channels totalling 100 miles and constructed from 1859 and 1865; They, in turn, fed by 450 miles of main sewers that shift contents from 13,000 miles of local pipes. Construction of the interceptors required 318 million bricks, 2.7 million cubic metres of excavated earth and 670,000 cubic metres of concrete.  Gravity allows the sewage to flow eastwards along the Thames Corridor.

During the 20th century, modernisation reduced pollution of the Thames Estuary and North Sea.  Otherwise not much has changed, pictured excluded.


This is what it looks like to clear 2.12 meters, as Kamila's brother Mathais does the other day at a competition in The Czech.  He is 17 years old which makes him one of the best jr tall jumpers in Europe.

Madeleine: "What are those ?"
Me: "Lemonheads. I used to eat them when I was your age. It's been, like, 35 years since the last time . . ."
Madeleine: "Are they any good."
Me: "No, they're awful."
Madeleine: "Really, Dad. Then why did you buy them?"
Me: "Good point. What's your favorite candy anyway ?"
Madeleine: "Oh I don't know. .."
Me: "You like gummies, that's for sure. And lollies. Oh, and cotton candy."
Madeleine: "I guess so. I like ice cream too. But not chocolate."
Me: "It's nice to sit here together and eat junk food, isn't it honey?"
Madeleine: "Yeah."

Saturday, May 26

Bon Voyage

Eitan off to France with Y6.  Normandy eight hours by coach and the children allowed to bring their Kindles or iPads and iPods for the long ride.  This for the adults, of course. Sonnet drops the boy off at school, 6AM, and he has - bar far - the largest bag of his crew. Split between mom and his friends, Eitan hesitates but , then, is gone.

We spend a lovely afternoon at Diana's and Simon's prusecco party overlooking sailboats on the Thames from the Chiswick Mall.

Me: "You and I are going shopping tomorrow."
Madeleine: "Really? "
Me: "I am going to buy you some clothes. So you don't look like an orphan."
Madeleine: "OK but you don't get to choose for me."
Me: "Don't worry, no dresses. But no plaid either."
Madeleine: "What's that?"
Sonnet: "cross hatches. .."
Me: "And nothing you can climb a tree in."
Madeleine, suspiciously: "Is this supposed to be a bonding thing ?"

Dog Day

Friday, May 25

Harvard Night

Eric at Harvard's graduation on a near perfect evening. The photo composition exact so well done who ever took the shot of him.

Friday again. We finally have hot summer weather which means .. something new to complain about, these Brits. Poor Kamilla on the third floor of our house unable to fall asleep until 2AM while I find Madeleine outside Eitan's bedroom lying on a few pillows, 9PM, reading a book ("War Horse" by Michael Morpurgo). I tell her it is all good as long as I don't catch her sunbathing naked. Like her mother used to do.

Stan takes in as much culture as anybody can and I am hard pressed to keep track of his concerts and recitals at the Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall .. .  the Barbican Centre and elsewhere.  Of course it is not the same without Silver's knowing understanding of each performance, and her joy of London's culture and the human spirit. We miss her.

Eitan thinks he can pack a week's worth of clothing and etc's in one duffel bag for France tomorrow. Sonnet asks Kamilla to help him but he will have none of that. A boy's gotta do what a boy's gotta do.

Sonnet and I to see The Horrors tonight at the Brixton Ac.

Thursday, May 24

V and A

Madeleine has yet to start Emanuel and we are at our first school fund-raiser - this one for a new £2M drama theatre which will open in March 2013.  By coincidence, the £250 per ticket event at the V&A for a private viewing of .. Sonnet's Ballgowns exhibition.  Sonnet makes herself available and even receives a bouquet of flowers from Emanuel's governor and an ovation.

Eitan sits in front of his Mac: "It says 'file saved automatically' - what does that mean?"
Me: "It means that your file will be immediately deleted."
Eitan: "Really?"
Me: "Are you going to the Hampton School this fall?"

Eitan:  "Je veux une pomme."
Sonnet: "Eitan is going to France on Saturday with his class."
Eitan: "J'adore regarder la television."
Eitan: "Quand il pleure je mang-ez une from-mage avec le chien."
Me: "Say: 'J'ai une grosse willie.'"
Eitan: "Ha ha ha!"
Me: "Say it to one of the teachers."
Sonnet: "You will not say that to your teacher."

Me: "What are you doing?"
Eitan: "Making a soap-box for school. .. ."
Me: "What's that?"
Eitan: "It's a power point presentation. I have to explain how to do something."
Sonnet: "Oh?"
Eitan: "I am going to describe how to train a dog."
Me: "You mean, ignore the dog for three weeks until dad yells at you to take him outside ?"
Eitan: "I've trained Rusty to do tricks. I taught him how to roll over."
Sonnet: "Madeleine gets credit for training Rusty how to roll over."
Eitan: "What?! I taught him how to roll over. And sit. And heel."
Me: "Can I sit in the back of the classroom when you give your presentation?"
Me: "Now that would be fun."

Wednesday, May 23


Sonnet and Stan join me in Paris and so we have dinner at Le Timbre in the 6e, on recommendation from a friend chez Astorg. Le Timbre is one of those perfect neighbourhood restaurants and, as Stan notes " it really is a two man operation" - in fact, man and woman, as she takes reservations and serves us and maybe ten squeezed tables while he prepares the boeuf. And what boeuf it is : terrine de campagne confiture d'oignons, foie gras de canard maison.. . filet de cabillaud compote de tomates .. .the menu, below. Me, I go for the boudin noir bearnais puree aux herbes which also known as "blood pudding" in Ireland. And it is wonderful - a salty dried mash with crumbly bits over a potato herb puree. Thibault tells me : "It is what I would have ordered" so I know I am on to something special.

Today Sonnet and Stan at the opening of the "Degas et le nu" exhibition at the D'Orsay which, Sonnet notes, "titillating " as the painter spent some considerable time at a French brothel painting his hosts.  From the D'Orsay, Silver and Stan return to London via Terminus for oysters and lunch; me to work on rue due faubourg st honoree.