Monday, September 30

Thirteen Candles

For his birthday, Eitan requests a family dinner and 'movie night' (he chooses "40 Year Old Virgin" so, yes, a few perfectly normal awkward moments); we celebrate a day early as I am in Paris, today, his birthday, where I write.

Our Friend, The Frog

Madeleine calls me out, 11PM, for a frog spotting. It turns out we have two frogs, plus a newt, in the backyard pond. This excites me for the springtime: frog spawn.

Alberto (FD, Diageo) and Lucricia over for dinner with their fab three children who are entertained by Eitan and Madeleine, which means hyde-and-seek notable as Eitan and Madeleine hide in the closet beneath the stairs and the door does not open from the inside. They panic so I let them sit for a bit (Eitan reports that Madeleine swears, something I have not heard in maybe five years).

Me: "At netball, out of 40 girls, do you know how many have short hair?"
Madeleine: "One?"
Me: "Pretty cool."
Madeleine: "If you say so Dad."
Me: "Will you ever let it grow out again?"
Madeleine: "Eitan puts, like, gel in his hair to mess it up or comb it over. All I have to do is run my hand through it once."
Madeleine: "It's easy."
Me: "You bet."

Sunday, September 29

Eitan At 13

Pre cup match

Tomorrow it is official: we will have a teenager in our home.  I recall, some years ago, the kids wide-eyed whenever near teenagers (often spying on them from the window). I would say, most seriously, "whatever happens, don't become a teenager".

And here we are.  Sonnet and I and all of us could not be more proud - more proud - of this quiet, serious boy who is on the cusp of becoming a young man.  His commitment to school, sport and friends is a pleasure to observe.  He is polite and caring, wears his heart on his sleeve, and supports Manchester United despite losing three of four Premiere League games this season so far.

When Eitan born, following a long labour, I watched his first look at the New World (before even a breath).  His eyes searched from one side to the other seeing who knows what ? He was taking it all in before making a decision. This has not changed in 13 years.

Friday, September 27


Battersea Rise

My photo taken less than 100 meters from Clapham Junction rail station, the busiest in Europe, in one of the densest neighborhoods of London.

Netball Action


Emanuel School takes on Ipstock Place in an exciting back-and-forth thriller that is won by the visitors. Netball new to me and a mix between basketball and ultimate Frisbee - no dribbling.  The girls race across court screaming 'ball!', trying to get inside the opponent's goal box for a shot on basket.

Netball began in England in the 1890s and today there are 60 countries competing in the International Netball Federation. In the UK, girls play from secondary school. It is way competitive.

Our gal plays on the 'A' team.

Wednesday, September 25


Schacter, Kristoff, Orenstein & Berkowitz or "SKOB" (Kristoff and Orenstein reversed)

I help Madeleine practice her spelling words.
Me: "If you get the next one wrong I am calling your Grandfather."
Madeleine: "You're calling Moe?"
Me: "Spell 'lawyer.' "
Me: "Moe is a lawyer."
Madeleine: "L.. O. ."
Me: "I'm calling your Grandfather."
Madeleine: "This is why I hate doing homework with you."

Tree Surgeon

Kingston Train Station

Jaime, the arborist who took care of the backyard scots pine, returns to trim the front tree, a holm oak. Jaime's dreamy, too - in shape, deep eyes and rugged unshaven face. Of course he rides a motorcycle. Even our neighbor, Helen, agrees, and she is proper Brit : Reserved.

So Jaime reduces the overhang by 30% yet leaves the job unfinished as he finds a nest with three baby birds that he does not wish to disturb.  I tell Madeleine and she falls in love instantly.

Me: "They really trimmed back the tree."
Madeleine: "Yep."
Me: "So how would you rank a plant?"
Madeline: "Like what do you mean?"
Me: "All creatures great and small.  Would you pick a flowering plant or a mosquito?"
Madeleine: "A flowering plant."
Me: "Thought so."

Tuesday, September 24

The Dog Shot

Rusty at the office

Sonnet notes that "getting Rusty made Madeleine happy" but truth is the dog is part of the family and gives us joy and consternation in equal doses.

Today I walk Rusty on the Thames Path - gorgeous Indian Summer - talking business on my mobile, reminding myself not to scream at the dog who gallops into the river after a raft of ducks. Worse, he can't climb up the riverbank as the tide out and the brick edge steep. He follows me for half a mile until he finds some stairs and I am relieved of having to retrieve him from the muddy riverbed.

Self Portrait XXX

Madeleine and I do some shopping in Kingston, since its Monday, visiting Topman and Uniqlo and River Island and Monsoon and and and. .. She's interested in trainers as, is, yours, truly but JD Sport and three other trainer shops leave us flat footed.  Trainers are a big deal for anybody but especially an 11 year old (or 46).  We catch the train home as the sunsets and Madeleine puts her head on my shoulder.

Sunday, September 22

Aggie & Madeleine

At the Opera House

Sunday evening which means family dinner followed by the NFL (me), football (Eitan), bed (Madeleine) and swim-team data entry (Sonnet).  Rusty looks balefully at the remains of a leg of lamb and we have to laugh at his transparency: all the dog wants in this world is a mostly eaten bone.

Lions v Eagles

Halftime breaks

Eitan's Sheen Lions play the Bedfont Eagles FC notable for the pitch's proximity to Terminal 4 and, damn, those planes come in, too. Wham. Wham. Wham. I find it amazing that houses are built so close to the busiest airport in Europe.

The boys lose, 2-0, to a team that is bigger and more physical - the Bedfont goalee looks about 17  and snatches anything that comes within ten feet of the goal box. Eitan gets used to playing mid-field and has a few disruptive plays and a couple of shots on goal that fizzle out. The team still coming together.

Football is followed by more football and I put my feet up to watch the Manchester Darby: ManU v Man City. Eitan records the action since his weekend homework now overdue.

Thursday, September 19

A Small Spec

Moon over Richmond Park

Walking to the train station this morning.
Me: "They really built that house fast. People can do anything when they set their minds to it."
Madeleine: "No they can't."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "People can't land a plane on the sun. Or eat a mountain."
Me: "Good points. But we can talk on a mobile phone and walk on the moon. That's pretty amazing."
Madeleine: "Yeah, I guess" [Madeleine texts while walking]

Me: "Hey, Madeleine, come and check out the full moon. It's beautiful."
Madeleine goes to the front door: "Where is it?"
Me: "Are you really asking me to help you find the moon?"
Madeleine: "I'm just saying I can't see it."
Me: "If you can't find the moon then there really is no hope for this family."
Madeleine: "Gee, thanks, Dad."

Wednesday, September 18

Post School - Pre Swim Practice

Eitan's mileau

I no longer pester the boy about keeping his room tidy or his homework organised. One must choose one's battles.

I take one for myself, following a full day in Paris, which entails sleeping in, jogging, going for a stroll in Tuilerise, checking out the Jeu de Paum and catching the 11:13AM Eurostar to London. I am home at a most reasonable hour.

Tuesday, September 17

A New Normal

Danske Bank's 'A New Normal' ad campaign

Eivund Kolding, CEO of Danske Bank, Denmark's largest lender, was dismissed with the admission from the bank that it needed a boss "with stronger qualifications within banking." Oi vey.

Danske's 2012 advertising campaign included an Occupy Wall Street protester with a dollar bill taped to his mouth, a female MP holding her child in parliament and some kissing lesbians, pictured. Kolding was forced to apologies after heavy criticism in Denmark.  Prior, he worked at a shipping company.

This reminds me of the time I stuffed my face with candy at the co-op and my mother forced me to return to the cashiers to pay and say 'sorry.' Humiliating stuff.

Sonnet in Oregon and Minneapolis St Paul to secure museum interest for the Italian show post V & A. In Minneapolis she visits Mike and Gretchen where she completes her book, submitted electronically, before catching the return flight to London.

"We all agree - both the board and the management - that the marketing campaign was not as successful as we would have expected it to be, to put it mildly."
--Ole Anderson, Chairman of Danske Bank

Saturday, September 14


Moe in '64

And here is my father, before career and kids and life took over. And what a rich life it has been and yet will be. Photo taken in Malawi where he and my mother spent several years in Peace Corps #1.

I drive Eitan and Joe to football and Def Punk's "Get Lucky" on the radio.
Me: "So what's this song about anyway."
Eitan, Joe:
Me: "What do you think? It's probably about gambling. Getting lucky at the slots."
Eitan: "Dad it's about sex."
Me: "I think it's a song about Las Vegas."
Eitan, Joe:
Me: "Playing the slot machines in Las Vegas."
Eitan under his breathe: "Whatever, dad."

Here are the top ten Billboard songs from 1964:
1. I Want To Hold Your Hand, The Beatles
2. She Loves You, The Beatles
3. Hello Dolly, Louis Armstrong
4. Oh, Pretty Woman, Roby Orbison
5. I Get Around, The Beach Boys
6. Everybody Loves Somebody, Dean Martin
7. My Guy, Mary Wells
8. We'll Sing In The Sunshine, Gale Garnett
9. Last Kiss, J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers
10. Where Did Our Love Go, The Supremes

Friday, September 13

Man's Best Friend

Pink tongue.

And it's Friday.  Madeleine at a school all-nighter to bond with her fellow year-7 s.  And bond they will since they are in sleeping bags and tents and it pours rain as I write.  Eitan and I take advantage of our evening watching television and chilling out on the coach. Woof.

Me: "Whenever I watch these commercials I think: 'this is the dumbest country in the world.'" [Dad's note: we watch a commercial where a baby plays keepie-uppies with a football]
Eitan: "We're not the dumbest, but we are pretty dumb."
Me: "The UK has like some of the smartest people ever. Crick and Watson, for instance. Newton and Darwin. "
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "But if the British are like anything on TV they are definitely behind other countries like France. Maybe the rest of Europe." 
Eitan: "We have good schools."
Me: "So there's hope."
Eitan: "Could be."

Thursday, September 12

Cool Cats

Green Park tube

31% of London's population is 24 years old or under.  Where are these people, I wonder?  Mostly working entry jobs, reading books and hanging out in Starbucks. Sometimes I see them at the Southbank Center or Shoreditch or smoking fags outside Imperial College maybe between class. The Apple store on Regents St a good place to spot them. London's young are mostly not found in East Sheen or Mayfair, where I spend my time, so I always perk up when I see a young dude on the underground, pictured, and wonder : where to ?

School Run

Interstellar porch

Madeleine and I walk, 7:05AM sharp. It remains light but the the late morning darkness encroaching. Soon we will be used to street lamps at this hour.

My day sees a bunch of meetings about a bunch of deals that I am working on and  hope will conclude and all the better if by year-end.  Inshallah.

The Voyager 1 space probe leaves our solar system after 40 years and 12 billion miles.  Despite the wars and terrorism and the general human cruelty and failure to communicate we, the human species, can do something together that is magical.

Me: "How was school?"
Madeleine: "We had to write an auto biographay. So I wrote about bugs."
Me: "Makes sense."
Madeleine: "Do you remember my pet slug named 'Jerry'?"
Me: "Um, no."
Madeleine: "Eitan cut him in half and threw him over the fence. So I wrote about that and bugs."
Me: "Sounds like a pretty good autobiography."
Madeleine: "Yeah, I guess. I wasn't sure what to write about."
Me: "You could have fooled me."

Tuesday, September 10

Mid Week

I return from Paris greeted by Rusty. Sonnet working like mad to meet her book deadline of July. The kids both at swimming practice. England plays Ukraine in a World Cup Qualifier.

Sunday, September 8

New Stripes

Palewell Park

And autumn, along with work, comes football.  Today Eitan's new team, the Sheen Lions, play Worcester Park to a 1-1 draw after going up 1-nil.  The equaliser a flook goal that graces the upper corner of the goal box, unreachable by Max, the goal keeper. That's the way the ball bounces.  Marc stops by to see Eitan and Jack in action.

Me: "I remember being your age and not wanting to listen to my father."
Me: "Now I actually feel like I have something to tell you."
Me: "But I get it."

Saturday, September 7


Man in coffee bar

Madeleine picks blackberries from the neighbour's bush, enough to make crumble, served with single cream, for all of us.  Recipe from Martha Stewart (Sonnet: "I am embarrassed to admit it.").

Neighbour Martin grew up in the house - his mother, Kitty Godfree, won Wimbledon a number of times and there is a plaque at the front recognising Kitty's achievements.  I enjoy Martin who knows a bit about everything and has a garage filled with every possible tool imaginable. I borrow them whenever I can.  Martin an electrical engineer who is working on a number of tunnels near Brighton.  He shares my view that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

I'm ripping all my DVDs to our family network drive.  Right now, it's Airport '77.

It's All Upward

Waterloo Station

Eitan back in football action as Hampton School defeats Sutten Grammar School 5-1.  He plays left-centre back.

We host the boy's new club team, the Sheen Lions, for a post-practise Friday evening beer and pasta party which allows us to put some names to the parent faces, instantly forgotten, and a season ahead. Blessedly, the home pitch is Palewell Park, a seven minute walk.

Me: "So what do you want to do for your 13th birthday party?"
Sonnet: "I'm going to get tickets for Fulham." [Dad's note: Fulham is in the Premiere football league and not far from Sheen]
Eitan: "Dad, see, you never pay attention."
Me: "I always pay attention to you."
Eitan: "You pay attention half the time and remember 25% of the rest."
Me: "So how much is that?"
Eitan: "Huh?"
Me: "How much do I retain?"
Eitan: "Twenty-five percent."
Me: "Bad math. It's 12.5%."
Me: "Let's at least be clear on the insult."

Thursday, September 5

London Sunset

Facing eastward from the Shell Mex House on the Strand

Indian summer is here and we join Puk and Lars, who celebrate his second book, 'Investing Demystified'.

Me: "How was your first day at school?"
Eitan: "It was OK."
Me: "You're no longer the youngest guy there. That must be pretty cool."
Eitan: "Yeah, I guess."
Me: "Do you boss all those year 7 s around, letting them know who's boss?"
Eitan:  "Not really. It's not like America or something."

Wednesday, September 4

School Cut

Madeleine at the stylist

And with a 6:30AM scramble, the kids are up and off to school. 7th and 8th grades, wow, how did that happen ?  Soon it will be college.

I walk our gal to the train station, her preferred journey to school, which allows us time to contemplate the morning sunrise and the general state of affairs - she is no longer the youngest nor the newest student, which offers some welcome playground seniority.

Tuesday, September 3

La Seine

Pont des Arts

The river at sunrise, home for dinner at sunset.

In all, there are 37 bridges within Paris and I cross three on my usual morning run:  Pont des Arts, Pont de l'ArchevĂȘchĂ© and Pont Neuf, the oldest in Paris, inaugurated in 1607.

Sunday, September 1

Ben And Eitan


This year Ben will sit his GCSEs, an exam that determines where one goes to university, more or less. The exams (along with the A-levels) are, for American ex pat parents, well, foreign. And intimidating.

Preparation for the GCSEs begins in year nine (age 14) when students choose their subject preferences from a compulsory 'core'+several electives - in all, maybe 11 tests over several weeks.  There is strategy: students who excel in maths, for instance, may take the maths exam in year ten then the rest in year 11.

University placements are extended based on GCSE results, an offer conditional on the 'A-levels', a further, final, exam taken at the end of secondary school (the two year preparation period called 'sixth form'). School grades, sport and extra curricular activities have no influence on the application.

Despite life's pressures, the kids find a park, with a swing, and have a ball.