Sunday, March 31

Madeleine's van Gogh

Madeleine: "Dad, how much is that painting [Madeleine looks at van Gogh's 'Clouds']?"
Me: "I don't know. Go and ask him."
Madeleine: "Can you do it?"
Me: "No, you want it. You ask."
Madeleine: "It's too expensive."
Me: "What did he want for it?"
Madeleine: "25,000 pounds."
Madeleine: "Do you really think it's worth that much?"
Me: "Did you try to bargain with him?"
Madeleine: "What do you mean?"
Me: "You know, make him a counter offer."
Madeleine: "Like what?"
Me: "How about starting at five pounds."
Madeleine: "From £25,000 to five pounds? I don't think so, Dad."
Later, Sonnet: "Did you get a picture, Madeleine?"
Madeleine: "Yep."
Sonnet: "How much?"
Madeleine: "Five pounds. Down from £25,000."
Me: "The kid is a natural."


I meet Rocco who (his card informs me) is a "face furniture consultant."  He also refurbs eye glasses and recently did a line for Victoria Beckham.

Rocco otherwise a former rocker and now shop keeper in Notting Hill. He spent some time in Santa Monica until he saw somebody shot in the street - "I just couldn't live there after that", he tells me.


Sonnet at Lisboa

We visit our old haunt, the Portobella Road and the Lisboa bakery with its wonderful custards, to be consumed rapidly, with strong coffee, and a fried pork sandwich.

In the early days of London, when we lived in W9, to get to Lisboa Sonnet and I walked along the Harrow Rd (the equivalent of St Charles Place in Monopoly) then a cobblestone side street next to a few converted warehouses and an orphaned detached Victorian mansion, over the Grand Union canal by the A40 flyover and under the oppressive Trellick Tower's shadow next to the rail road tracks and, finally, Lisboa. Somehow sublime.

Potted History

Eitan in new trousers

The bank holiday weekend in full swing (it snows).

Sonnet and I do some yard work and, as a family activity, we re pot the plants which requires a major effort and some patience.  The root systems fill their vessels so, after extraction , I chop off the bottoms and shake them down; I fill the pots with compost and in the plants go+water.  Time will tell if I killed them - I give it 50-50.

Friday, March 29

Michael Costiff

Dover Street Mkt

Sonnet and I at Michael Costiff's book signing, following stops in Manhattan and Tokyo. The book includes photographs from Michael's club, the Kinky Gerlinky, which ran from the 1980s to '90s at the Ballroom in Leicester Square. For a time, the Kinky was London's hottest discotheque and favourite of minor European royalty and the cross dressing scene including Divine, Leigh Bowery and Susan Bartch. How unusual, then, that Michael born and raised in Grindleford, a village without street lamps, until he got the hell out.

Sonnet knows Michael as she acquired Michael and wife Gerlinda's Vivian Westwood collection for the V & A.

Chill Out

Madeleine four days into her three week half-term break.  

And this, the Easter Weekend, which England takes seriously - the banks closed today, Good Friday, and Monday. Of course it is freezing though springtime.  In our first flat, a top floor in Maida Vale, a young ish women would sunbathe, in her bra and panties, on her urban roof, the first weekend of warm weather, welcoming the new season for us all.

Thursday, March 28

Wednesday, March 27

My Crew

On the way to Passover

We are with the Clarks for Passover (Michael accepted to the Naval Academy); they are on the Upper Mall, mentioned in the first paragraph of Thackeray's 'Vanity Fair', overlooking the river, St Paul's boys school and the Hammersmith Bridge in the near distance. As per always, their friends interesting : the couple from Shoreditch via the East Village and LA where she invests in social enterprise and a Catto Fellow (having made a bundle selling her e-learning company IEC) and he a visual effects artist in the feature film world. The academics from New Zealand via Cambridge, MA, and the Hebrew school teacher who wows us with Moses.

Eitan impresses us all, quoting God (impersonating a burning bush): "I am who I am."

Via twitter.
Madeleine: "Do you want me to get you anything from the highstreet, like a snickers bar or toblerone?"
Me: "No thx but thank you for asking. Whatcha up to today?"
Madeleine: "Reading [Twilight], walking Rusty and thank you cards [for Passover]. When are you home?"
Me: "Ok, sounds like a good day. Home at 6 or so."
Madeleine, later: "Finished book. 459 pages in three days. 8-) "
Me: "You rock. How were the vampires?"
Madeleine: "Predictable."

Tuesday, March 26

Your Crazy Neighbor

North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the army to destroy and wipe away any enemy who lands on their coast.

Man Down

Mortlake Train Station

Here is a dude in a hole. I ask permission to take a photo and his colleagues (six of them) cheer, handing over a walkie talkie for the pose; one fellow demurs probably concerned they will get caught out for over staffing or goofing around or something.

Me: "How about if we go to some museums over the spring break?"
Eitan: "Yeah, right."
Me: "Don't you enjoy museums?"
Eitan: "All they are is sitting around looking at some paintings and begging you for lunch."
Me: "Pretty rough huh?"
Eitan: "Yeah."

Madeleine hunched over her laptop playing computer games.
Madeleine: "Do you think I can be a game tester when I grow up?"
Me: "Seems reasonable."

One Nation, Under God

Gun deaths since December 2012. Source: Huffington Post

In the three months since the Newton massacre, 2,224 Americans have died from guns.

Yet support for new gun control measures has dropped 10 points from the days following the December shooting at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school, according to a survey released today by CBS News.

According to the poll, 47% believe gun control laws should be more strict, while 11% want fewer regulations on gun purchases and 39% say laws should be kept as they are.  In December 57% backed stronger new gun controls. 

Sunday, March 24



Eitan competes in the British Schools Modern Biathlon Championships, representing Hampton School, at Crystal Palace : 50 meters freestyle+500 meter run qualified from the cross country champs and the Surreys swimming county finals.  He is 11th of 54 in Year 7.

Madeleine's football game, vs. Crystal Palace by coincidence but played in Croydon, cancelled due to freezing temps.

Saturday, March 23

Surfer Girl

Alana Rene Blanchard

Blanchard (born 1990) a Hawaiian professional surfer and Bikini Model and part of the ASP World Tour.  She is sponsored by Ripcurl, Reef, Sticky Bumps, Spyoptic and Red Bull and designs Rip Curl bikinis. Blanchard best friends with fellow surfer Bethany Hamilton and was present when Hamilton suffered the shark attack that took her arm (photo from web).

It has been a long time since I have driven up HW 1 to go whomping at 4 mile point.

Spring, UK

Springtime in paradise.

We are at Andrew's 40th which keeps us out late. Andrew the Managing Director of Optalis, one of the first local authority-owned trading companies in the UK created to provide adult social care.  He was brought in to make the organisation more commercial and he has done so.

Snow and foul weather traps drivers in cars, closes airports and halts train services, and puts communities on alert for flood where 59 alerts in place.  Unlike a proper winter storm which, usually, puts people in good cheer this time there is a collective groan - what a bummer following an unusually long winter. 

Madeleine and I agree to 30 minutes of video games to my television then an afternoon of reading.

Thursday, March 21


These guys are probably founding Facebook

Following a morning at Somerset House and an LP meeting for Kreos Capital I stop by the Royal Festival Hall, with laptop, to do some work.  I learn this is where London's mid-thirties male spends his afternoon working or blogging or whatever he does. There is good comradery.

Wednesday, March 20


My offices

Justin and Will in town for a conference hosted by an one of Industry Ventures' portfolio companies - a €30 million ticket so they better show up.  We have dinner with a pension fund from the West Midlands. We are at the surprisingly good Institute of Directors (IoD) which is tres old school with a cocktail lounge and accompanying dining hall - perfect for our guest.  From there it is a drink at Dukes then home where I change in the hallway so as not to wake Sonnet (it is 10PM).

Madeleine: "I am reading such a good book. It's called 'Holes'.
Me: "is it about holes?"
Me: "Ok, just tell me about it."
Madeleine puts her head on the counter.
Me: "Just try please."
Madeleine: "A boy is wrongly accused of stealing a pair of trainers. He goes to a juvenile camp. He has to build a hole in the desert with the other boys."
Me: "Cool."
Madeleine: "The people in the camp say it builds character and it can turn bad boys into good boys. You can also die in a matter of days if you are not careful because of snakes and scorpions."
Me: "Exciting."
Madeleine: "I am going now. The end. Bye."

Tuesday, March 19

College Pro Painters

Barrington, RI, 1987

My most responsibility, up to age 19 or 20, was the Rhode Island franchise of College Pro Painters where, following a weekend of training, I, and my fellow managers, were released upon an unsuspecting home-owing public.

CPP taught us how to do things like make cold calls and do job estimates but, really, it was swim as swim can.  I proved to be adept at signing customers and, with a full school load, lined up a bunch of houses before final exams and 'the production season.'

From there it was one calamity to the next : Spilled paint on front lawns . break-downs . .over-budgets .. . a police warrant. Usual stuff. I had ten painters+$7,000 of equipment on credit. My pager administered a punishing blow at every notification.  The summer did, finally, end with a profit (ca. $10 grand) and 20 ladders stored in the basement of an unknowing building. I was relieved when it was over.

The following summer (my Jr year), with Chas and Eric returning and a crew of 30, I  painted 52 properties in ten weeks producing nearly $200K of turnover and was "Manager Of The Year."

Sunday, March 17


Vs. Stratton

From the pitch to the pool as Eitan spends the afternoon at the Surrey Swimming Championships to compete the 100 meter freestyle (time: 1:06); 200 butterfly (2:53, DQ) and 100 backstroke (1:19). He is just outside National qualifying time in several events. Madeleine left out of the competitions this w/e but I take her to swim practice Saturday evening and she seems OK with that.  

Halley and Zoe with us this evening as Zoe renews her passport.  She prepares for her GCSE exams in several months.

"I have to say that Eitan was unbelievable today. He made a player who has scored for fun all season, look like he wasn't ever there today... Eitan is one of the kindest and most talented boys I have ever met."
--Elm Grove coach Marc in a text to me and Sonnet

To The Finals

The All Stars play Stratton in the Surrey Cup semi finals - they are one of four teams of 400 who remain in the tournement.  Coach tells the lads to relax and adds helpfully: "This is the most important game you have ever played."

Elm Grove brings their best game, too (Stratton defeated the All Stars 1-0 last season) and, after two halves, the score zero-zero. Each side takes their chances and Eitan does an excellent job disrupting Stratton's forward attack.  Suddenly we find ourselves in extra periods : 2X seven minutes. If neither side succeeds, the dreaded PKs.

Anthony joins us for the action and treated with some of the best football of the year. In the end, with two minutes in the second over-time, Stevie chases down a perfectly dropped ball and fires a shot  .. . which angles towards the left goal poste .. we hold our breathe to see which way it goes - and it is in! The ref blows the whistle and the All Stars will play the final in a proper stadium in April.

Saturday, March 16

A Fox

Me: "Rusty caught a fox today!"
Eitan, Madeleine, Jack: "No way!"
Me: "True. The dog was whimpering at the back door so I let him out and bam! there was a fox and the chase was on."
Eitan: "And he got him?"
Me: "They were going 40 miles per hour and the fox hurdled himself on the fence and bounced off - it was like throwing a football."
Madeleine, Eitan, Jack:
Me: "And Rusty was on him. I think he was kind of surprised - sinking his teeth into fox fur."
Madeleine: "Was the fox hurt?"
Me: "He got away and then they raced around the backyard. Around and around and around. Until the fox tried the fence again and made it this time."
Madeleine: "Woa."
Me: "Rusty was so worked up he could hardly sit still all morning."
Sonnet: "Never a dull moment at No. 45."

Spring Break

American yufful hedonism on display with film 'Spring Breakers', which shows college girls gone wild with guns and sex and drugs and stuff.

When I was a senior at Brown, cross country pal Vince invited me and four other runners to the Florida Panhandle for .. spring break. We left Providence, Rhode Island, in the midst of the New England winter to arrive in the glorious warmth of the sunshine state.

From Vince's condo it was a skip to the beach where we, a pale emaciated lot, observed the pecking order: Georgia Tech or Florida U frat guys, totally buff and already forming beer bellies, sun burnt and drunk, devouring beer 'bombs' and screaming their approval at one another.  The bikinis surrounded them.

From there it was mostly a down hill affair from booze drenched bars and jam packed clubs vibrating to "Funky Cold Medina" (I shudder). Me, never a pick up artist, chored with the impossible task of finding five women but - success! - I score a willing party and off we go only to learn they are high schoolers. The girls never so safe.

Overall, on balance, we probably ended up better off than the meat heads we partied with though, undoubtedly, they have better memories of that time.

Thursday, March 14


This is what Paris looks like when it snows - photo from MFAMB.

I drop Madeleine at school and jog home along the bus path which reminds me of some of the roadside runs in Ensenada or Mexicali where the diesel exhaust overwhelming. This morning no different. Unfortunately getting myself to the river adds three or four miles to a six-miler and just outside what I wish to do; otherwise it is all concrete and rubber.

A quick Internet search suggests that the exposure to micro particles, while jogging, from increased lung-air volumes negates the healthful benefits of exercise, raising the odds of respiratory infection and cancer. Sure feels like it now.

Wednesday, March 13

New Do

New haircut, my glasses

Me: "Wait a minute - something is definitely different."
Madeleine: "Oh?"
Me: "Are you wearing lipstick?"
Madeleine: "Really, Dad."
Me: "Do you have new glasses?"
Madeleine: "No!"
Me: "Wait. Your hair. I love it."
Madeleine: "Everybody says it makes me look like Anne Hathaway."
Me: "I see it. In Les Mis"
Madeleine: "Is she pretty or something?"
Me: "Yes, she was great in 'The Devil Wears Prada."
Madeleine: "Some people say it suits my style."
Me: "I get it."

Real Instagram

Circa 1984

And where does the time go? In my case, the last 24 hours extra in Paris thanks to an unusual winter storm which dumps snow and cold on the indignant Parisiens (the ladies and their wedge heel knee-high fur boots slip and slide along rue du Faubourg St Honoree). The Eurostar cancelled and the airports closed. I bunker in a cozy hotel met this morning by a soft pink sunrise reflected from the white sidewalks and sandstones of La Cité.

Madeleine gets a hair cut which, I am told by Aneta, "Very short. Shorter than Eitan." I am as curious as you, dear reader.

Sunday, March 10

All Hat No Cattle

On our way to the Hampton School 'Ho Down'

Our evening foiled due to car problems. Instead we enjoy a Saturday night 'in' watching "Borgen" (Danish political drama). Me, not complaining.

Eagles Win

Madeleine before battling Carshalton Athletic in a thrilla that goes 3-2 for the Eagles. Madeleine knocks in the first goal - a nut meg through the goal keepers legs - and the girls rejoice while our hero looks at me sheepishly yet filled with joy.  Some of these girls animals on the pitch, tackling, grinding, stomping on the opponent.

Bowie Aladdin

Bowie will open at the V and A on 23 March for the first international retrospective of the singer's career.

Already there is buzz as Bowie releases his first album in ten years to good reviews.  Sonnet tells me that, as part of the ticket, visitors will receive an audio set mandatory for the viewing - there will be no written descriptions of the 300 objects, which will include handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs and Bowie's instruments.  Song will play a major role on the tape. Unclear if Ziggy Stardust will be at the opening but we sure hope so.

Madeleine jams her hand in the lane-line during swimming practice. She frets that her knuckle is broken so I give it a big squeeze. She howls and cries but, in my opinion, it is not broken.

Saturday, March 9

Dog Plan

Madeleine tasked with the dog last night.  She resists but it is not all bad as she stays up late watching television.  Rusty otherwise an impossible host throwing himself on our guests.

Master Chef

We end the week with Simon and Sabi and Ligia and Alberto, from Lisbon, who spent several years in Kansas City running a business for GE (Ligia heads GE"s European private equity business).  Alberto and I compare notes on Modine's, a bbq joint on the town's edge which Sonnet and I know from our drive across the USA in '97.  The restaurant in a house hollowed out for the grill manned by two giant sweaty black men who poke the shredded meat then served on a paper plate and piece of Wonder Bread.

This week began in the Nordics and Sonnet in Italy; we attend the V and A opening for "The Treasures of the Royal Courts" (wonderful, covering Henry VIII and Elizabeth I to Ivan the Terrible and the early Romanovs and 500 years of exchange between Britain and Russia).  Sonnet out with Natalie  Thursday and tonight we at a 'Ho down' for the Hampton School. Tomorrow I am to Paris.

Madeleine and I (from the comfort of the living room couch) watch the age-group inter-counties cross country championships in the mud and damp.  Puff puff puff.

Thursday, March 7

Spring ?

Queen Victoria St in the City

This is one of those days London known for : murky.

Eitan faces a conundrum as he is selected to represent his school in the British biathelon age group championshiops at Crystal Palace the same day as the All Stars take on Teddington in a match that may determine who wins the Surrey League's Premiere Division.

I am back from Helsinki a city I love - minus 8 degress and a foot of snow prevent me from running yet I enjoy a slippery stroll along the Boulevard admiring the strange Nordic-Soviet aesthetic : modern and kitsch at the same time. Looking over Töölö Bay is the Finish orthodox Uspenski Cathedral, designed by a Russian, which (now mostly empty) reminds me of Norman's house on the hill in Psycho.

Monday, March 4

Wonderful Copenhagen

A Dane on display

This is what everybody looks like in Cophenhagen (where I blog, awaiting a flight to Helsinki). And I think it is true. Or maybe it is the surprise of seeing so many young people in the cafes, on bikes, walking in the park.

Following lunch I go for a seven mile run around 'the lakes', a row of three rectangular lakes curving around the western margin of the City Centre, forming one of the oldest and most distinctive features of the city's topography. I have done this loop many times now. What is different: construction. There is a new, narrow, walkway and (soon) public area.  The students, strollers and sunshine seekers remain unchanged.

Sunday, March 3

Istanbul Was Constantinople

Bosphorus, 1997

We are in Waybridge to watch Eitan battle Fleet in the Surrey Cup quarter finals - the farthest the lads have gone in this tournament. After an exciting win, 2-1, Sonnet takes Eitan to the first weekend of the Surreys swimming championships where the boy has qualified for nine events. Today he competes the 400 individual medley, only Sonnet gets the start time wrong and Eitan yelled at by Coach for failing to register on time. The boy allowed to swim in the first heat and gets DQ'd on the butterfly as his legs separate into a crawl-like kick. Sonnet says: "A bad day at the office."

Despite it all, Eitan comes home in a good mood, finishes off some homework, reads the Sunday sports and now both kids watch Harry Potter, which is like some soothing drug.

Me: "Have you ever had a detention?"
Madeleine: "If you're going to get a detention it better be for something worthwhile. Like carving your name into the wall."
Me: "That would probably get you  more than a detention."
Madeleine: "Yeah, but it would still be worthwhile, better than getting three spelling words wrong."
Madeleine: "Everyone would know that Madeleine Orenstein went to Emanuel School."

Saturday, March 2

Friday, March 1


After school, before swimming

Yep - Friday.

The EU announces a bonus cap on bankers at €1 million which is like chump change to a Master of the Universe. Further, it is not clear if employees of British banks stationed abroad are on the cap. Without question it will play into the hands of London's overseas rivals while undermining support in Britain for the EU.

"This is possibly the most deluded measure to come from Europe since Diocletian tried to fix the price of groceries across the Roman empire." 
--Boris Johnson compares the EU to Roman emperor Diocletian who introduced an cap on food prices across the Roman empire in AD 301.

Eitan: "We got free cheese on toast at school today."
Eitan: "Because it's Saints David's Day, I think."
Me: "What's that?"
Eitan: "I don't know."

Sonnet: "Madeleine put your book away and join us. We are having dinner."
Madeleine: "What about Eitan? He is watching TV."
Sonnet: "But he is not having dinner."
Madeleine: "Well he should have to join us."
Me: "Do you really want your brother at the dinner table?"
Madeleine: "No!"
Madeleine: "I am just saying."