Sunday, September 28

Almost 14

Eitan turns 14 (we celebrate early as I will be in Paris on the actual day).

How could Sonnet and I wish for anything more? Eitan has become an independent and confident young man while navigating his second year as a teenager.  And this has been a year of change. At school, he has a new form and friends; he has added new coursework in French while dropping design, technology and art. Hampton won the Surrey Cup. Momentarily, his social scene shifted towards crowd sourcing and the High Street (often leaving Sonnet and I perplexed) but now, in the new term, he has adopted a more focused approach towards his studies.

Eitan remains a quiet and thoughtful young man. He is rare to open up with us but we know he feels deeply about those things he holds dear: sport, school, friends and Manchester United. He also carries nostalgia linked, perhaps, to his dislike of letting go of things from his past. I recall he sadness at the last game with Elm Grove or his tears leaving Sheen Mount.

Mostly Eitan has remained true to a first vision I had of him as an infant. He is cautious to jump into new things but when he moves, it is with well studied conviction. He wants to please those around him and so sets high goals for himself. We watch as external feedback becomes less important to the standards he sets for himself.  It is our joy be along for the ride, wherever it may be going.

Field Trip, WWI

Chateau Wood Ypres 1917 by Frank Hurley
Eitan up at 4AM (Sunday) for an over-night field trip to Belgium to trace the route taken by an Australian WWI platoon on their way to fight at Passchendele (near Ypres). Tomorrow the boys will drive to the Somme where the trenches have been preserved. This followed by a visit to the British memorial at Thiepval and a British Cemetary. 

The Battle of Passchendaele was a campaign of the First World War, fought by the British and their allies against the German Empire. The battle took place on the Western Front, between July and November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgiam city of Ypres in West Flanders , as part of a strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917.
Passchendael lay on the last ridge east of Ypres, five miles from a railway junction at Roeselare, which was a vital part of the supply system of the German Fourth Army. The next stage of the Allied strategy was an advance to Torhout-Couckelaere, to close the German-controlled railway running through Roeselare and Torhout, which did not take place until 1918. 

Further operations and a British supporting attack along the Belgian coast from Nieuwpoort, combined with an amphibious landing, were to have reached Bruges and then the Dutch frontier. The resistance of the German Fourth Army, unusually wet weather, the onset of winter and the diversion of British and French resources to Italy, following the Austro-German victory at the Battle of Caoretto (24 October – 19 November) allowed the Germans to avoid a general withdrawal, which had seemed inevitable to them in October. 

The campaign ended in November when the Canadian Corps captured Passchendaele. In 1918 the Battle of Lys and the Fifth Battle of Ypres were fought before the Allies occupied the Belgian coast and reached the Dutch frontier.
(source: Wiki)

Friday Night Scrabble

The Indian Summer continues which sees lovely autumnal weather, warm and friendly, easy to sit on a park bench and write some emails or in Green Park to make my calls.  In fact, this has been the driest September in 50 years.

I am with Madeleine for the club swimming sprint champs and our gal swims all the disciplines. Unfortunately no PBs but she is up for the task, swimming her little heart out (She says, "I didn't do that well but I don't think I could have swum any better"). I love the team camaraderie as the kids scream and wave their team mates along; from the stands, an occassional explosion from an enthusiastic parent livens things up.

Eitan seems to have let go of any feelings he had for swimming to concentrate on his football, athletics and school (update on Osgood Schlatter: Eitan back to training and hopes to play in the next week or two with his physio's permission).

Madeleine: "I tried to buy some spray paint with Williby but kids aren't allowed to buy spray paint. How come?"
Me: "Because they sniff it."
Madeleine: "Why do they do that?"
Me: "It makes them high."
Madeleine: "Doesn't it turn their nose all different sorts of colours like green and blue and red?"
Me: "Yes. It is one of the many hazards of sniffing paint."

Monday, September 22

Holocaust Memorial Museum

Diana invites us to her home to meet Mike Abramowitz, who is the the Director of the Committee on Conscience, which conducts the genocide prevention efforts of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Diana and our friend Todd are on the museum's council. 

Before the Holocaust Museum, Mike was a reporter and editor for The Washington Post since 1985-06 and the White House correspondent for the Post from 2006-09 covering the Bush administration’s conduct of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. No, I did not ask. 

I visited the Holocaust Museum in 1993 or 1994 around when it first opened, a truly moving experience. Of the many things I remember, the pile of discarded children's shoes remains in my mind's eye.

Madeleine: "What are you watching?"
Me: "The news."
Madeleine: "The news is boring."
Me: "I hope you didn't just say that."
Madeleine: "Can we watch something interesting like 'Modern Family' or something?"
Me: "You go, girl.'"

Sunday, September 21

Adam 40

Madeleine, Dead Horse Point

We are at Adam's 40th birthday party last night in Notting Hill, which really is a lovely part of west London - in the 1980s it was run down and my friend Gilbert bought a house here for half a mil which is now worth maybe 20. Or 25. But I digress. 

Adam I met at Ben's bar mitzvah when he (Adam) had recently acquired Pushkin Press which publishes authors from around the world like Stefan Zweig, Marcel Ayme, Antal Szerb, Paul Moran and Yasushi Inoue (none of whom I have read dear reader). Often Adam translates these works into the English language for the first time. 

Before Pushkin, Adam was Publisher of Penguin Classics and best known perhaps for rediscovering the work of the German writer Hans Fallada, with the first English-language publication of Alone in Berlin. He is now excited about 'Fortune of France,' which chronicles over many fictional volumes the French religious wars in the age of the Tudors; it has sold more than five million copies but not in English. I immediately think of the Master And Commander series and may have to investigate.

For the record: Eitan is 5'7'' and Madeleine is 5'3''. I once took their height and weight every month or so up until 2010. I will plot it on a graph one day.

Saturday, September 20


I can't resist buying an American football.  It's been an unusual season - Eitan no football as he recovers from a growth spurt. He is being smart about it, resisting jumping into training or games that could set him back. It will come.

I reminisce of four or five years ago when went to the park at the crack of dawn to practise corner kicks and run drills. I worked him pretty hard, it was good for both of us.

Without afternoon swimming, I often come home to find him in the den, hunched over his books, intensely beavering away.

Tuesday, September 16

The Way Back Machine

Winter 2010
Yes, these kids grow up quickly and only yesterday it seems that Eitan and I played football together.

It is unseasonably warm for mid-September and tomorrow we may even have humidity and thundershowes.  Usually Indian Summer a bit later and a bit drier but I smile and sweat my way through it.  Sonnet meets me at my office and we walk home chit-chatting; at 45 we peek into the den to spy Eitan working away at his homework.

Bill and Martine arrive in London. Bill has cancer but nothing slows him down. He recently bought a condo in Arizona to play golf.  I love this about him.

Me: "How is Jack doing?" (Dad's note: Madeleine's friend Jack broke his femur playing rugby)
Madeleine: "We've had to move all our classes to the first floor since he can't climb the stairs."
Me: "Poor kid."
Madeleine: "It's like the second worse bone to break."
Me: "After your neck?"
Madeleine: "Your head. Or your back. Then you could be paralysed."
Me: "So true."

Sunday, September 14

Berry Picking & Scotland

Sonnet, Madeleine and I head to Buckinghamshire to pick some fruit - mainly raspberries and plums but also sweet corn for corn chowder.  This is a nice family ritual.

Scotland's decision to leave the United Kingdom put to vote on Thursday and on every body's mind. The referendum question is rather simple, "Should Scotland be an independent country?", requires a rather simple 'yes' or 'no.'  All residents of Scotland 16 or over or about 4 million people can vote (about 800,000 Scots live in England and they largely won't participate nor the 6 million Scots who live in the US). Independence requires a simple majority.

Until last weekend, a yes-vote seemed improbable but then a poll put the majority at independent. Panic. David Cameron and Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband went north for the Hale Mary. Some open ended issues: currency, public expenditure, defence and North Sea oil.  It is a once in a lifetime, 100-year decision.

It would be shocking and tragic if Scotland broke from a union that has served Britain for 300 years.

Saturday, September 13

Richmond Autumn

Everybody gets a little itch sometimes

We host a party for the Sheen Lions FB club and Sonnet makes several types of pasta while I handle the wine and beer (actually, Sonnet handles the wine and beer). The parents arrive first then the boys come stomping in, post practice, filled with energy and glee. Unfortunately Eitan has Osgood-Schlatter syndrome or when the bones growing faster than the muscles causing soreness in the knee and groin area. He is unable to play for now but things will take care of themselves in due course. No need to worry.

Sonnet asks me to tell the boys that dinner is ready and "to wash their hands." I deliver the message to blank or sniggering faces.

Friday, September 12

School Run

The train station to school
I suggest to Madeleine, on our walk to the train, that my blog might be coming to an end, but she is overwhelming in her support: "You've been doing it since we were kids!" Which makes me pause: are they not kids now? And that is the problem. Writing about them, which I always enjoy, is more complicated as, well, they are not just kids. Eitan and Madeleine's lives are filled, in a most favourable way, with friendships, relationships, embarrassments and the usual stuff of growing up. They would kill me if I wrote about it. 

Sonnet and I sit outside, Friday afternoon, in the South Kensington sunshine, scheming. 


Skyline (photo from Planet Den)
I am in Singapore this week, flying out Sunday 11:30AM, arriving at the Changi Airport 7:20AM Monday morning. Brutal.

My day begins with a tour of Astorg-owned Linxens' manufacturing plant provided by the affable and knowledgable Ah-Ban, who has been with Lx for 20 years or from the company's earliest beginnings as Dupont Connector Systems.  Today, Linxens is the world's leading maker of connectors for smartcards with applications for your credit cards and the SIM cards connecting to your iPhone 6. The end product is shiny and industrial, covered in a plate of gold or platinum that you can see on your credit card chip, and delivered to OEMs in Asia and around the world. Linxens produces ca. 6 billion units a year with the Singapore plant accounting for about 4.5 billion. Talk about economies of scale.

Beyond the exhaustion of my flight, Singapore is a strange even surreal city which is perfectly manicured and organised like no other I have known. Unemployment is 2% and the skyline's growth, since my last visit in 2006, remarkable : it is literally a different place.

The skyscrapers have light displays. My hotel connects to an underground shopping mall complete with all the top glamour brands (jam packed at lunch, deserted by 7PM). The billboard ads are familiar: there's Charlise on Dior or Clooney for Nescafe and Kate doing Burberry.

It's a place where things are going on. Everyone wants to be rich and in a hurry to do so. So Western and so ... not.

Saturday, September 6

Track Suit

I sit next to Madeleine, Saturday mid-day, and she looks over my shoulder as I write my blog. She tells me she is feeling "bored enough to be sitting here." Fair enough.  This morning she had a swimming workout and this afternoon she will hit Richmond with Marcus and maybe Molly. Madeleine says Richmond is about "food and shops. Whole Foods, Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Starbucks, Costa . .." She tells me it's easy to get to and fun.

Madeleine in her comfortable track bottoms which we Americans call "sweat pants". Of course, "pants' in England means nickers or underwear. I've gotten into trouble over that one.

On this photo Madeleine says "you can see my uneven toes."

Friday, September 5

Aneta Katie

Upper West Side
Well, the last we saw Aneta she was on her way to Western Mass to be a counsellor at a Jewish co-ed camp.  With mission accomplished, she now travels along the Eastern Seaboard visiting Washington DC and New York, or that's about as much as I can gather from my limited intel. Good times I'm sure. And to be young again.

Katie, meanwhile, goes strength to strength at the Op Ed Project. Here is a recent testimonial: "Before now, I never thought about becoming the CEO of a billion-dollar organization at 34. But here's to the OpEd Project and you, Michele, because--in this process--you've somehow taught me to become audacious and to stare down my own fears and go for it anyway."

Teenager In The House

So the kids are back to school.

Madeleine up this morning 5AM for swimming (dutiful mother Sonnet took her, then went back with a bacon-egg sandwich+juice box). Netball started yesterday. And Sonnet and I met her form teacher, Mr k, who has been teaching for 20 years and, prior, was a banker for which he apologises. Mr K seems pretty cool while Madeleine says he is slightly disorganised and often late. I note his hair uncombed and tie askew. We like him.

Meanwhile, Eitan refuses to tell us anything about his day. Par for the course I suppose. Unfortunately he has been sidelined from sports due to growth related injuries and pains so we are getting that checked out.  Yesterday, Eitan had an all-day team building exercise that would do any MBA program proud. Says Eitan, "whatever".

Thursday, September 4


I return to Paris Monday-Tuesday to catch up with l'equipe Astorg, who has had an active summer including three new investments before the August shut-down. The deals are interesting, too : Megadyne is the world's number-one manufacturer of polyurethane industrial belts; Sebia is the world leader in electrophoresis (a niche of in vitro diagnosis field) mainly for bone marrow cancers; and M7, a direct-to-home satellite Pay TV provider to almost three million households.

I do my usual early morning run which either goes Eiffel Tower (turn right) or Notre Dame (turn left). Both about 4 or 5 miles, 45 minutes. I then sit in the hotel lobby, drink coffee and read the newspapers (FT, Le Figaro). It is the quiet moment of my day.