Saturday, August 31

Thursday, August 29

Pre Snip

At Valentina

Madeleine and I meet on the High Street for lunch. Afterwards, it's the hairdresser so she can try on a new style just in time for school, which kicks off tomorrow.  I am honored that she wants me beside her as the 'stylist' clips away, snip, snip, snip.

And soon - just like that - it's back to work. Next week looming large. Where did the time go ?

Wednesday, August 28

Cologne Cathedral

And today I am in Germany.

The Cologne Cathedral is Germany's most visited landmark attracting 20,000 people a day, according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany.  The towers are approximately 515 ft or the height of The Stealth at Thorpe Park.  A lot is going on here.

Aus einem Stein ist schwer Öl pressen.
--German proverb meaning 'you can't get beer out of a stone.'

Monday, August 26

Game Night

Man U v Chelsea

No room for small talk.

Me: "Are you proud to be British?"
Eitan: "Yeah, of course."
Me: "How come?"
Eitan: "Well, it's a small country yet it contributes a lot to the world. It punches above its weight."
Me: "So does that suggest that you have contributed to the world?"
Eitan, after some thought: "No. Not really."

Self Portrait XXIX

The bank holiday comes to a close which is a good thing since all I do is nag the kids and house chores.  Sonnet at the museum all weekend to finish the introduction of her book, 'The Glamour of Italian Fashion.'

Madeleine records a season of 'Modern Family' and I am sucked in. The current show has the kids doing an egg drop project for school and Claire slips on the egg yolk and falls on her ass then starts screaming at her kid. Across the generation gap, Eitan, Madeleine and I howl with laughter.

Madeleine: "People think animals are lesser than humans."
Me: "Well, they are, aren't they?"
Madeleine: "No they are not. Horseshoe crabs can save people's lives."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "They have a certain medicine or something in them."
Madeleine: "I learned that in my geography class."

We sit in the living room watching TV.
Eitan: "In half an hour I am going to ask everybody to get out of here." [Dad's note: Manchester United vs. Chelsea]
Madeleine: "What?!"
Me: "I get it. 30 minutes. Don't argue this one, kid."

Sunday, August 25

On Dating

Soon to be 13

Over dinner we discuss the difference between dating in the US and Britain. In the US, a 'date' remains as carefree as it was back when : boy+girl+dinner=no commitment. In the UK, Nathan tells us and Eitan corroborates, a 'date' far more serious and implies coupledom. To get around this, kids go out in packs, evenly split between the sexes, and can be found on the High Street or in Pizza Express.

Me: "So I understand Eitan is on a 'date.' "
Madeleine: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "How does that make you feel?"
Madeleine: "I don't know, nothing really."
Me: "I remember it was kind of weird, when Katie or I had dates. It was like things were changing."
Madeleine: "I guess so."
Me: "Does it seem that way to you now?"
Madeleine: "No, not really."
Me: "It's coming."
Madeleine: "If you say so, Dad."

Me: "What do teenagers do when they go out in packs?"
Madeleine: "They sing. They make fools of themselves. They buy lots of things."
Me: "They sing?"
Madeleine: "Uh-huh."
Madeleine: "I know from personal experience."

Saturday, August 24

Bank Holiday

Rusty knows what's up this weekend.

Friday, August 23

The Thames

Southbank, Friday night.  

Sonnet joins us from work. We see some hip hop at Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Madeleine: "What would happen if you put a match in some beer?"
Me: "A match in some beer?"
Madeleine: "Yeah. What would happen ?"
Me: "It would go out?"
Madeleine: "I thought so."
Madeleine: "It's not like some alcohol, or something, that would explode, is it?"
Me: "I think we're safe."

Eitan: "Do you think London is a cool city?"
Me: "You bet, especially East Sheen."
Eitan: "What do you think are the coolest cities?"
Me: "I don't know. LA, Berlin. .. "
Eitan: "Paris."
Me: "Definitely." 
Eitan: "And New York."
Me: "You've only been to like five cities."
Me: "La Veta. . Berkeley .. . Santa Fe."
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "Bear Valley. Now we are talking cool."
Eitan: "You're joking, aren't you Dad?"

Dog Days

Sonnet lets loose

Eitan spends the lazy summer days doing, well, close to nothing. A bit of tennis here, a dog walk there. Last night he makes apple banana bread.  Otherwise, he sleeps until 11:30AM and lazes about the house looking patiently into the refrigerator hoping he will find something missed ten minutes before .. . I have to remember this time myself, lying about, reading comics. Bored.

And we try to give him his space.  It is not easy when I would otherwise wish him doing maths review. We've had some battles about this stuff and I have to be comfortable with his ability to deliver the goods on his own.

Thursday, August 22

East End

Sonnet at Dishoom

We head to Shoreditch to meet Suzanne and Daniel, new friends via Diana.

Daniel went to Caltech and Stanford's Computer Systems Lab for post doc work and I can see why : soft natured and cerebral, funky coloured glasses and long stringy hair perfect for his runner's frame which sees four or five marathons a year (he, in his 50s).  Daniel also a software writer and applied mathematician who works his trade at Sony Pictures FX - he created the code behind the wonderful scene in "Batman, The Dark Knight Rises" where the football field collapses into a sinkhole. And, in GI Joe, the Eiffel Tower's destruction ("That one was pretty cool", he giggles).  I ask: who owns his work ? and he thinks for a minute : "I guess I do. Know anybody who wants it?" I am stumped, dear reader.

Monday, August 19

Ferris Beuller & Prop Values

Age 14 (note Sperry canvas Top Siders)

London in a self-inflicted property bubble as house prices for the three months ending July improved 2.1% with prime London postcodes >10% (Knight Frank). I recognise a frenzy when the café guy informs me that his weekend spent cleaning house to sell his Putney flat for £300 grande profit. I mean, Putney ?

Thanks to the UK's 'Help To Buy' scheme introduced in 2012 and aimed at first-rung home ownership, a 5% deposit secures an additional 20% equity loan to be used towards the bank mortgage (ie, 25% down). The loan is interest free for the first five years.

Given British property values, unlike the US, did not collapse post the 2000-07 housing bubble, Britain remains over-priced by most measures like mortgage-to-income or mortgage-to-rent. Our elected leaders learn nothing.

Sunday, August 18

Mouthwash And A Dead Fish

Eitan has not had a shower or bath since returning from the US.

Madeleine: "How do you use mouthwash ?"
Me: "How do I use mouthwash?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, use it. What do you do."
Me: "I gargle it. For thirty seconds."
Madeleine: "See, Eitan, thirty seconds."
Eitan: "I don't gargle for thirty seconds because I do it after I brush my teeth."
Madeleine: "It's not how you are supposed to do it."
Me: "Are you guys having fun?"
Eitan: "Yeah, I guess so."
Me: "Well you are driving me and your mother crazy."

Madeleine: "Eitan your fish is dead!"
Eitan: "Oh, darn it."
Me: "Is it floating?"
Madeleine: "No, he sunk to the ground."
Sonnet: "Well get a little scooper and take him downstairs then."
Eitan: "Mom it's dead."
Me: "Just flush it down the toilet. And go to bed."
Madeleine: "Nice one, dad."

Friday, August 16


CO somewhere near NM

Fracking : The US unique - if you own the land, it's yours to the core. In the UK, by contrast, the Crown retains all sub-surface mineral rights, which means companies only need buy enough land to get drilling while landowners see none of the benefit from oil or gas underneath, even if horizontally drilled beneath their property. Pretty fucked up given British shale gas deposits may equal 1,300 trillion cubic feet (10% of which enough to supply our needs for 40 years .. .)

Well economics, US: one well (aprox 1 hectare of space) costs $6M to dig and frack, give or take, producing $40M of economic benefit (give or take) of which 20% goes to the landowner as 'royalty.' This is a cool a couple hundred grand to the landowner a year and easily more.

Madeleine: "What do people do on their honeymoon anyway?"
Me: "Make l'amour."
Madeleine: "Really?"
Me: "What do you think they do?"
Madeleine: "Have a nice vacation."

Summer Days

Me, to middle-age woman as we watch our kids on some vomit-inducing ride: "It takes a certain age to enjoy these things."
Woman, after a thoughtful pause: "At least, a certain attitude."

Standing in line for "The Saw" ride.
Me: "You know, all I have to do is say 'pants' and any 12 year old is mortified."
Me: "Pants."
Eitan: "Dad!"

We leave Thorpe Park around 6:30PM, sun setting, day accomplished.

High Ride

At 46, I ride 'The Swarm'

Eitan and I spend the day at Thorpe Park, a real slice of Americana in Britain, where we are presented with 1950s pop songs ('Under The Boardwalk', Clickety Clack, Don't Talk Back' and 'Up On The Roof') along with the corn dogs and cotton candy and ice cream all of which the boy indulges in.

Thorpe Park also owns some of the fastest, tallest and scariest rides in the world. I find my heart racing as we line up for The Colossus, my first roller coaster since Cedar Point in '05 and second in 35 years (Eitan, happily: "Dad you are actually sweating!").  The adrenaline makes me nauseous yet I force myself onto "Stealth" which goes from 0 to 80 mph in 1.8 seconds before hurtling skyward, 460 feet.

I am a fraction from bailing but the joy on Eitan's face (and my potential humiliation) find me strapped into the goddamn thing, full speed ahead. Afterwards (11 seconds) I feel exhilaration - I did it! - and suddenly I am 12 all over again.

Tuesday, August 13

Under The Waterloo Bridge

Madeleine scores a music sheet

A favourite spot of mine is the open air second-hand book market tucked under the Waterloo Bridge on Queen's Walk - it is open daily, rain or shine - and one of the last of its kind in London or, at least, that I know of.

In 1997-98, I ran along the embankment as part of a 6-mile loop beginning in The City, past here, and it was all pretty dodgy : the Southbank Centre an unloved 1960s concrete monstrosity with rumour that Tony Blaire would demolish the complex and start all over.  Happily he never did and today the area vibes with bars, restaurants, locals, tourists, readers, hipsters, joggers and freakos who seek out the river and the arts.

Madeleine and I spot a suitcase on the Thames' shore.
Madeleine: "I wonder if there are a lot of chopped up bodies in there?"

Madeleine and I have a discussion about cows.
Madeleine, matter of factly: "I've eaten leather, you know."
Madeleine: "It tastes just like a beef burger. Literally"

Monday, August 12

Kids Home

National Theatre, Southbank Centre

The kids arrive in London safe and sound, if not a bit tired, and full of adventure to tell.  We meet them at Heathrow, 7AM, and I consider : this is what it will be like when they are in university.

To stay awake, Madeleine and I catch the train to Waterloo to walk about Southbank and have lunch (sushi, of course).  We end up at OXO tower for a drink and to observe the view.

Madeleine: "What would happen if you ate upside down?"
Me: "I don't know. It might not be very comfortable though."
Madeleine: "Would you throw up or something?"
Me: "Sounds like one for the Internet."
Madeleine: "Yeah."

Madeleine: "This is so much fun. We should spend more time together like this."
Me: "Madeleine it is my favourite thing. There is nothing else I would rather do."
Madeleine: "I haven't gone over to the dark side yet."

Madeleine: "Eitan's music playing is so annoying." [Dad's note: Eitan has an electric keyboard]
Me: "Can you hear him in your room?"
Madeleine: "Yes. Do you know what I am going to do?"
Me: "No, what?"
Madeleine: "I'm going to cover my walls with egg cartons. That way I won't hear a thing."
Me: "Good idea."

Sunday, August 11

Eel Pie

Sonnet rambles

Since top of the summer, Sonnet and I sleep until 11AM then go for a walk alongside the Thames from Richmond to Teddington lock.  I water the plants, talking to my tomatoes, coaching them to turn red.

We stroll by the strange Eel Pie Island, an island in the Thames, which I have often wondered about. There is one private access for the 120 or so inhabitants; it was a communal hippie dippie in the '60s and known, then, as a major jazz and blues venue: visitor performers included David Bowie, The Yardbirds .. .The Who and the Rolling Stones. Even Pink Floyd.

Now Eel Pie Island is an oddity and home of the Richmond Yacht Club.

The kids ready themselves for their solo trans-Atlantic flight from Denver. Stan drives them over the Rockies, God bless.

Saturday, August 10

Surrey Hills

Spooky church

Sonnet and I ramble in the Surrey Hills designated as an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty by the UK government.  And it is.

On the top of a tall hill we stop at a church graveyard with stones dating to the 18th century.  Sonnet thinks a lovely place to be married; me, it looks like the perfect setting for "Night Of The Living Dead" or some other such horror movie.  I see zombies crawling from their graves seeking human flesh. Would not come here after nightfall. Strangely, our footpath the only way here - in and out.

Friday, August 9

Rusty Returns

Jail break

I pick up Rusty from the kennel and the dog is ready to get the hell out of there.  He jumps all over me, begging : "home, home, home, home .. . "

A poem posted nearby Smith College as part of Northampton's "June is Poetry Month" Celebration:

Prayer to Artichoke
by Gail Thomas

Strange one, I bless
the day I found you spread
open, plucked and pulled
between my teeth.  Lead
me to your tangy core.
Oh, keep me
wanting more.

On The Range

Meanwhile back in London

The report from Colorado positive. Eitan and Madeleine solo with Stan, enjoying football camp on the mesa, and generally being (i) spoiled and (ii) bored (Eitan). Madeleine relieved to know that Eric and Nelson (the turtles) are doing well. Sadly Stig the goldfish goes belly up (some tears from our intrepid pet owner) .  Madeleine finishes 'The Diary of Anne Frank' and 'Lord of the Flies'; Eitan reads 'Lonesome Dove' (Eitan to Sonnet: "Mom, what's a whore?" Sonnet to me: "Nice one, Jeff")

Me: "Are you two getting along?"
Madeleine, Eitan: "No. Maybe."
Madeleine: "Eitan came in to my room to steal my stuff."
Eitan: "You said I could have those things . .. "
Madeleine: "Did not. And besides, it was while I was sleeping."
Me: "Good to see you kids enjoying yourself."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "No doubt about it."
Eitan: "Yep."

Sunday, August 4


Following a quick review of the Internets to find a window cleaner better than Windex (because, you know, Windex is kind of boring), I create a concoction: 2 gallons of hot water, half-cup of ammonia, handful of dishwasher detergent, and Rain-X which otherwise keeps the car windows de fogged. The reagents act favourably, actually bubbling and popping. I try not to breathe it.

From there, it is up the 32 foot ladder to catch the 2nd story fenestras and the conservatory, that requires, well, walking on the conservatory which always freaks Sonnet out and takes me back to the stupid things I did in college.

I live yet, following a half-days work, my cleaning mixture leaves dots and streaks and I have to re do it using Windex and newspaper.

Going Solo

Coming un done ?

As I am alone since Tuesday, even without the dog, I do what most of us would do in these circumstances : watch the complete series of Deadwood and drink beer.

Since cooking out of the question, I am unintentionally on a weird macro diet: yogurt and berries for breakfast. Maybe something for lunch. And dinner a large green salad that doesn't require the burner. Breakfast of champions.