Monday, June 30

The Belly Of The Beast

Katie at the Four Seasons
I arrive in Manhattan yesterday, which always brings back a wave of euphoria - New York! - and anxiety (meetings! First Boston !). But it is a glorious summer Sunday evening and I meet Katie for drinks so it is all OK.

On our way to dinner we pass Fernando Botero's bronze, “Leda and the Swan" and Katie recalls the mythology where Zeus, disguised as a swan, rapes Leda (married to King Tyndareus ) who hatches, from two eggs, Helen of Troy and Polydeuces. Helen, of course, the most beautiful woman in the land and her abduction by Paris, and eventual marriage to Menelaos, leads to the Trojan War. It is a longer story of course and Katie knows it by heart.

"A shudder in the loins engenders there 
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower 
And Agamemnon dead."
--Leda and the Swan, W.B. Yeats

Sunday, June 29

Party Down

"Hurricane" by Bridget  Mendler, final song
Madeleine brings down the house with a year-end party at No. 45.  55 boys and girls arrive more or less ensemble (the parents wish us good luck, tell us we are brave, then ditch - God bless.  Fortunately we have Oscar, Klara and several mums who help us with the cooking and over-seeing). They are high on sugar, music and themselves. What joy, to observe such youth.

Madeleine for her part does a wonderful job bouncing between different groups (boys, dorks, on the one side and the girls on the other) making sure everybody feels welcome and included. The kid is a natural, I tell you. 

Throwing a party for a bunch of Year 7s not without risk of failure or public humiliation.  Last night was fabulous and either way I could not be more proud of Madeleine.

"I'll just give it another wack and see if that does it."
On plane British Airways engineer shortly before departure to NYC.

Friday, June 27

Power Shot

Venus at work
Sonnet and I to Wimbledon and have the same wonderful seats as always : just on the lip of the cover so we get plenty of shade on a hot day, like today. We arrive on the grounds in time for a picnic and walk around a bit before Court 1, where we are treated by world class tennis from Venus, Maria and Stan Wawrinka, the current world #3 and recent winner of the Australia Open.  They really wack the ball, too.

The joy of Wimbledon - there are so many matches! It's like going to a double-feature at the movies, and who ever does that now ?

For all our love of McEroe or Borg or Connors : none of these guys would have made the tournament today.

Wednesday, June 25

Self Portrait XXXX

Trump Tower, Toronto
Sonnet: "Oscar had a good idea today. He suggests that museums ban children under 12." [Dad's note: Sonnet and Oscar visited the Tate Modern as part of Oscar's work study at the V&A]
Me: "Why not make it under 15? That should have you covered, Eitan."
Sonnet: "My parents used to hate children at museums. My Dad still does."
Eitan: "Maybe you could exclude children from the more sophisticated exhibitions?"
Me: "What's a sophisticated exhibition?"
Eitan: "Um, maybe shows that have Matisse and van Gogh."
Eitan: "Or maybe less sophisticated shows have sculptures."
Me: "That's an interesting one. Care to explore it further ?"
Eitan: "Not really."

Tuesday, June 24

Photo Booth

Spider vision
I visit Toronto for a 24 hour in-and-out. An annoyance: the T5 tram that connects the main terminal to the outer gates is a 30 second ride yet requires 20 minutes planning nor is their a walking option. But what irritates me is the time one waits from the trolly's arrival and passenger debarkment until we can enter the carriage which is painstakingly long. Some idiot did some risk analysis, overcompensated, and wastes a bazillion hours of our (my) time. This occupies my mind, esp. when running late (per usual).

Eitan competes the 1500 in today's Richmond Schools Championships (I arrive at Heathrow, 9AM, and head straight for the track in time to see him run). Eitan wins, with a time of 4:59, the same as last year when he set the meet record for Y7s.

Saturday, June 21

Jumping Joy

Daisy and Madeleine burn off some energy
We spend the longest day of the year in Palewell Park at a going-away party for Alberto and Lucretia. Alberto with Diageo and returning to Spain (Madrid) from treasury to marketing. I meet the European MD of Philip Morris, the head of BAT and a couple of bankers or, as Alberto points out, a real bunch of riff raffs.

Last night we are with Jacques and Micou, a French couple, while Jacques has recently retired from private equity firm KKR.  We discuss France and agree : the prospects not good nor is there a Margaret Thatcher to make things right. And why would the best and the brightest go into govt? It's a good question right now.

Friday, June 20

Same Old Football

Eitan watches England v. Uruguay
England crash out of the World Cup, losing 1-2 to Uruguay, which, the announcers helpfully point out, is the smallest-population country to be in the finals. Joy.

There is something very English about the defeat : down 1-nil, Rooney equalises in the 2nd half getting our hopes up. Then the crushing inevitable.  Exactly the same with Italy the other night. So, four years of anticipation, a few moments of euphoria, and two stinging defeats. Enjoy your football.

Older cousin David and Donna join us for dinner on their way to Ireland.  They will visit many of the spots seen by us, Grace, Moe+Katie in '98. David continues his work at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, where his research changed how colon cancer is screened in America.

Me: "How old do you think I am?" [Dad's note: birthday]
Madeleine: "47."
Me: "Good guess."
Madeleine: "48?"
Me: "You got it right the first time. Does that seem old to you ? "
Madeleine: "Not really. I guess you have a few years."
Me: "Until I'm dead?"
Madeleine: "No! Until you're 50. That seems old."

Wednesday, June 18

Goldman's View

The City, from Goldman's offices

GS's HQ on Fleet Street is subtle and rich at the same time. Upon entering, one knows that one is surrounded by the world's very best competency when it comes to money.

As Dick Whittington and his cat knew in the 19th Century and Goldman Sachs knows today, "London's streets are paved with gold."

Me: "Are you kidding? Put that down. You're mom is making you a nice dinner." [Dad's note: dad finds Madeleine in the living room eating a scone 20 minutes before dinner]
Madeleine: "Yeah, right dad." [Dad's note: Madeleine points to dad's open large bag of lightly salted Doritos on the couch where dad is watching the news]
Me: "Mine is more like a lite snack."
Me: "OK, eat the scone."

Tuesday, June 17

Thy Word

Madeleine, pre race

Me: "What are you guys going to do without your media toys during the family road show?" [Dad's note: we will drive across the USA in July]
Eitan: "We can watch movies. In the back of the car."
Sonnet: "I am going to bring a lot of audible tapes. The entire works of Shakespeare, for instance."
Madeleine: "What ?! I am not listenting to anything with 'thy' in it."
Me: "Thy hast no choice."
Madeleine: "No 'thy' and 'thou.' No way."
Me: "Thous shall obey thy mother's wishes."
Madeleine: "Whatever, Dad."

And They're Off

Starting gun (Madeleine is No 21)
Madeleine runs the 800m in the London Schools Track and Field Junior Championships having qualified several weeks ago and so I find myself at Mile End stadium in Tower Hamlets.  

My taxi driver, who drives me from Canary Wharf to the stadium, grew up in the neighbourhood but lives in Essex now - he can't afford London. His parents, however, still in the family house as his dad a bus driver who lives two minutes from the depot. They are also under pressure to move.

Since Tower Hamlets next to The City, and as the Olympics Village pulls the city's gravity Eastward, property prices and rents have gone skyward. Despite its urban and ethnic nitty gritty and working man local, property prices are on par with Richmond's leafy suburbs as young professionals arrive and gentrify. There is hardly a cockney accent to be heard.

Madeleine runs in a fast heat and unaccustomed to starting on the outside lane. She rockets forward but out of gas for the second lap. The 800m may be the most punishing race : lactic acid onset by lap one with one full-lap to go.

Monday, June 16

The Eagle Has Landed

Oscar "Crazy Bus"

Oscar joins our family for three weeks to do a work-study at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Oscar has recently finished his sophomore year of high school in San Francisco and last time he was with us in 2010 during the World Cup (England famously crashed out) and next year it's the dreaded SATs but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I have known Oscar since age-two when we met on a family vacation in Provence. Now he is a young man interested in geometry and the sciences, design and theatre.  Museums, too.

Sunday, June 15

Yellow Dress

Friday Night, VA

The World Cup starts and England loses to Italy, bummer.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times, in a wonderful expose, has shown FIFA to be a corrupt, unethical and self-serving governing body of world football. Still, prez Sepp Blatter will likely run for re election for another four years. What, me worry ?

I spend the day, Sunday, doing my US income taxes (ex pats receive an automatic extension which means one thing: procrastination).  My 1040 requires forms 2555, 6241 and 1116, each with its own pull-out worksheet (found in the 300 page IRS instruction booklet), to be filled out in precise sequential order. Oh, joy.

Saturday, June 14

Mall Rats

Josey, Madeleine, Lizzy

I drive the girls to the Westfield mall for an agreed 3.5 hours (negotiated down from five hours) and must wonder: what do they do?  Me, I head straight for Starbucks to watch a couple of episodes of "Breaking Bad" in peace.

Madeleine has ten pounds and buys a pair of colourful socks.  The remainder is spent on two pieces of sushi for lunch. Good value entertainment.

I am invisible in the car and listen to the girls chit chat and giggle about school, boys, clothes .. usual stuff.

Tuesday, June 10

Departure - 1500 - Exam Card

Christian busts a move

After ten days in London and Paris, Christian and Lisa return to Los Angeles and San Francisco, where they split their time together.  Laurance joins us for dinner, taking a break from his energy deal making.

I head for the Allianz Park stadium in Barnet to watch Eitan compete the 1500m in the Middlesex County championships but unfortunately I miss the boy's race due to traffic grrr.  Eitan finishes in 4:55 and not chuffed by the result - the winning time is 4:31 - and fair enough since he has never had a track workout.  In the next few years or even months, his growth spurt will count for more than anything else I suppose.

Madeleine: "Do you think I did well on my exams ?" [Dad's note: Madeleine's year-end exam card arrived by post]
Me: "You did an excellent job."
Madeleine: "Does that mean I can get something, since I did so well?"
Me: "Of course you can, honey. You can use your hard earned money to buy yourself a reward."
Madeleine: "Thank you, Da -- hey, that's not what I meant."
Me: "How do you think the world works, anyway ?" 

Monday, June 9

Diane's Emmy

Southeast Emmy

My cousin Diane wins an Emmy for "Outstanding Achievement, News Single Story" for her work on debt collection scams. Holy catfish and bravo! As my grandmother would have said, "she comes from good stock."

Sunday, June 8

State Of Mind

Eitan at 13

He's a teenager but he's my teenager.

Me: "You know, when you wash your hands, you should do so for a minimum of 30 seconds."
Eitan: "And another important lesson from Dad."
Me: "Are you ragging on me?"
Eitan: "No way."
Me: "Hmmmm."

Jumping Mad

Arcade Fire's Win Butler

Christian, Lisa, Sonnet and I join Arcade Fire at Earl's Court for a remarkable, unbeatable, rock concert that has the audience jumping mad for the band's best beloved songs.  It is a Roman carnival.

We are home by 1AM, order pizza (the girls go to bed), finish the beer and watch England vs. Honduras in a "friendly" before the World Cup (nil-nil, bunk)

1:30AM: "Man, why don't we do this every night?!"
7:30AM: "I am never doing that again."

One Last Lap

London Aquatics Center, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Eitan competes at the British Gas Regional Swimming Championships this weekend.  He has qualified for numerous events but sticks to the shorter sprints, 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly, since the boy is not in particular shape for the longer distances.

This is Eitan's last race as he drops swimming to focus on school, athletics and football. It is a sad day, esp for Sonnet who has been the Wandsworth Swim Club's competitions co secretary for several years requiring endless swimmer data entries usually done last-minute and late at night. Sonnet has joined, and encouraged, Eitan across many pools and all-day weekends since Eitan could walk.

His time in the 100m freesteyle -  1:02.55 - a personal best.

The Friday Zone

The banker, the lawyer, the entrepreneur, the curator, and the artist 

And it's a Friday evening at the museum where Sonnet shows a few friends her exhibition.

Madeleine receives her results for the end-of-year exams.  She recieves the top mark in her English class and the fourth best overall for her year. Her short story, which determines the grade, is about : "The Dead Zone" :

"In Tucson, Arizona, there are several boys, who are bored and so they try to find something to do. They go to the desert to shoot pellets at a door where a man lives. The man chases them away. Nobody is supposed to go where the guy lives, the Dead Zone. It is where people who survived the Viet Nam War are."

Saturday, June 7

Summer Love

The lovers

Friday afternoon, hot summer weather, train station and buzzy for the weekend. I note this flirty couple having a great time, nothing else could matter to them.

This week by in a flash as Christian and Lisa in Paris and I catch up on work.  There  are still US taxes to return but ex pats receive an automatic extension. Still, ug. Sonnet and I to dinner with clients and enjoy >$1K on sushi yet still hungry so cereal at Midnight

I send a friend, who recently left his firm to pursue something new, a note stating: "Congratulations, life rewards the bold" only my auto-correct replaces "bold" with "bowel" which kind of changes the message.

Monday, June 2

CW In The House

Christian and Lisa visit London, bringing California weather and spirit with them.

So Simon tells me that, quietly, America the only country to meet the Kyoto Protocol (recall, dear reader, that in 1997, 191 states agreed to legally binding limitations/reductions in greenhouse gases. The US signed, but did not ratify the agreement). Why ? Natural gas and shale fracking.

The US projects that 60,000 megawatts of coal-fired production, about 1-fifth production, will be retired by 2020.  Coal still accounts for 40% of US power but down half from a decade ago.  Gas not only cleaner, it's a heck of a lot cheaper, too.

And, locally, Britain's urban rivers are the cleanest they have been in 20 years, according to a 21-year study by Cardiff university.  Despite river temps rising 1-2 degrees since 1991 from global warming (reducing water O2 levels, bad), small invertebrates are thriving. Cities have done their job.