Saturday, June 25

On Record

West Hamstead
We meet Lisa who may help Eitan and Madeleine with US college applications. The stats are daunting : for the non-financial aid white-applicant the % of the accepted pool is 40% which means less than 2% overall for Harvard and Stanford. Further, the application process way more complex than my day. And we are doing it from the UK with different deadlines and academic datas. In short, we are driving blind.

Lisa rachets the sales pitch informing that "you are now on record" since Eitan has made his GCSE choices. On record ? Like permanent record ? Sonnet turns white.

Lisa rattles off GCSEs, As, SATs, ACTs, extra curicular activities and essays; selection (2,472 universities) , donations etc etc.  The process a full time job requiring a network with the schools, coaches, alumni and local mums also sending their little dears to the USA for information share, gossips and support.

So Lisa , should we go with her, will take "the conversation off the dinner table" as our friend Tony, who recommends her, informs me (Both his girls went to Univ of Pennsylvania). In return we give her a bunch of money.

Afterwards we have dinner at Pizza East at the Golborne and Portobello Road (Trellick tower in background) for a summer city feel good vibe. It's buzzy.


Well that was cool.

Little Britain will soon be out of the European Union. The odds-makers and punters, until Thursday night's vote, expected the UK to remain but 52% of the voters said otherwise. The shock outcome has resulted in a decline in Stirling by 7-8% (far less btw when the country borrowed from the IMF in '78 and the pound fell a third or the exit from the FX mechanism in 1992 when it went down 25%), decline of 3-4% of the Footsie and a Moody's down-grade. Painful but no crisis.

Longer term, who knows ? But it is clear the new uncertainty will make foreign investment less likely not more. Europe will wish to punish Britain with tariffs and Obama has confirmed we will be "at the end of the queue" for trade agreements.  Cameron resigns. Junker has demanded we negotiate the separation without delay.

UK banks may leave to access Europe. If Brexit kills The City, it will have choked the goose that lays the golden egg. Do not forget, dear reader, that London exports £25b to the rest of the country  (London 60% in favour of Remain).

As for the leaver's objective - border control - immigrants will continue to enter the British economy because we need them, especially for skills the country does not manufacture or labour the Brits won't do. Unless, of course, the economy shrinks which is now possible following 2% growths for the last 3 years creating 1m+ jobs.

So Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have won the day. Could it happen in the USA ? The odds-makers gave Brexit much less chance than Trump becoming President (17-1 against vs. 4-1 against).

Sunday, June 19

Summer Yard Work

The kids give me their Saturday to help with yard-work. The front tree sheds every God damn leaf it owns.

If my unscientific survey of cab drivers is any indication, Britain is heading for an exit from the European union. The cabbies report that 8 or 9 out of ten of their passengers are for the Brexit. One would think London would have a greater number of Remain candidates given the jobs in financial services and the property markets.

Should Britain cede from the EU, Scotland will surely present a referendum next year to leave the UK and stay in Europe. It will be the end of Great Britain.

Madeleine: "I'm done."
Me: "You will finish the yard-work when we are all done."
Madeleine: "You said one hour."
Me: "Finish the job."
Madeleine: "You said one hour."
Me: "Madeleine I could use your help. Come on."
Madeleine: "You said one hour."
Me: "You will finish when I say so."
Madeleine: "I expect to be paid."
Me: "I assumed it."

Eitan: "Have you seen the brownies?" [Dad's note: Sonnet hides the brownies from me and Eitan]
Me: "Nope. Try the usual places."
25 minutes later. Me: "Any luck?"
Eitan: "Nah."
Me: "Keep looking kid."

Sonnet Jigs

Sonnet stops by Friday for lunch in St James's Square.

I continue to adapt to my new neighborhood with new sandwich bars, coffee shops and transportation links. I also must adjust to the commute, which is 45 minutes to an hour depending on the connections. I use the time to answer emails and find it highly efficient.

In 2003 the average UK commute was 45 minutes, in 2011 it was 54 minutes. That compares with 70 minutes in Portugal, 80 minutes in Ivory Coast and a 23 minutes in Italy. The world average is about 40 minutes.

Friday, June 17

Still Teddy After All These Years

Teddy the bear
"Open Heart" (surgery) Teddy remains in Eitan's bedroom. It splits the difference between the boy and the young man, a fade which occurs before our very eyes. 

I, too, had a stuffed bear (white, same name) which was with me to high school, hidden away in the cupboard, until tossed unceremoniously.

Tuesday, June 14

Ruby Tuesday

Rusty: A momentary pause from crazy
The old oak in our front yard sheds, like, its entire folio in two weeks. I hired local teenager Will to assist me and he lasted one weekend. So usually it falls on me to do the rake-up job. I can no longer hoist it on the kids who have their sports, school and social lives to tend to.

Eitan's official time at the Middlesex Championships is 4.21 in the 1500, a 5 second PB. His body is catching up to his ambition. Mark, his coach, thinks he should be gunning for 4 minutes.

Me: "4.21 is flying."
Eitan: "I'm pretty happy with it."
Me: "Must be nice to get a freebie like that."
Eitan: "What do you mean?"
Me: "Your body is growing. Along with the hard work."
Me: "And one day it will only be the hard work. But it won't stop you and may be to your advantage."

Me: "Did you see Ben?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "What did you guys talk about for ten minutes?"
Madeleine: "Can somebody just open up the door Dad?"
Me: "Hey it's awkward for me to kid."

Sunday, June 12

The Queen is 90

Arthur and I on the water metro pass by the Tower Bridge as the Queen goes by in her row boat. I'm not kidding. Canons rumble. Fighter jets fly overhead then other military vehicles and finally the Blue Eagles (I think) who cover the sky in blue, red and white. It's Her Majesty's 90th.

The country celebrates with block parties and BBQs and a million people show up at the Pall Mall. A celebration and a touch of rain ? Carry on.

Sunday Morning Lull

Photo of the river facing eastward, about 10AM on a muggy morning. To the right is Oxo pier and tower; the left is the ancient JP Morgan bank which once held Britain's gold reserves until the country went off the Gold Standard in 1931 (it is still rumoured to hold billions of pounds of gold). The Blackfriars Bridge crosses the river and covered with solar panelling. Behind the bridge is St Paul's and The City.

The tide is out.

Arthur Returns

Arthur and I re-union at Track 18, Waterloo Station, to begin a four hour walk along the Thames Path ending up beyond the Isle of Dogs/ Canary Wharf.  It is always extraordinary to uncover different neighbourhoods and small plaques presenting history long forgotten.

Last we saw Arthur, he was retiring from TRW following 30 years of service. His last project : working on an anti-missile defence program targeting ICBMs in Iran, a project employing over 500 engineers from Fairfax to Irvine, California. In my mind's eye, I picture a bunch of bearded software geniuses arriving at a warehouse with an enormous rocket in the middle, allowing them to tinker. Instead, Arthur informs, it is one of the most sterile environments he has ever worked : silent rows of cubicles and offices bathed in unnatural light. His job to ensure the pieces operate together, also known as 'systems engineering.' This leads to a discussion the Wright Brothers and so on and so forth.

Author in California keeping busy rebuilding his house.


Madeleine and Eva catch the train for Surrey and a weekend of hiking and survival for the Duke of Edinburgh award. They gals hike 7 hours Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday.

Madeleine meant to take a pizza for lunch only Eitan arrives home late from a party and eats it. The pizza meant for Eitan was, in turn, eaten by Rusty who sets off the chain of shouting and recriminations. It was a large, btw, and the dog had to open the oven to get it.

Brexit 50:50 but my bet is the unknown unknown will keep Britain in. I sure hope so.

Study Time

Madeleine studies
The scores roll in and the kid has done great.

Eitan runs the 1500 Middlesex County Champs. He places 7th of 18 in the finals; time to be verified : it is likely 4:25. Meanwhile Madeleine ranked 142 in the country for U15s with a 2:25 800m.

Dog Vines

It is that time of year again. No frog spawn though (to Sonnet's relief). Time rolls on.

Gracie has a successful operation to remove an early cancer. She is now home recovering and Moe is the nurse. Katie there as well.

Morning Coach

Eitan and Shaheen walk to the coach, on their way to school and exams. Shaheen's brother in awe of the older two.  Eitan has two exams or so a day, Monday to Friday, covering mathematics and the sciences, English and languages and drama. The corrected booklets will be returned, face down, in class this week. Same as it ever was. I am glad those days long over.

50 dead in Orlando, Florida, in a terrorist attack no matter who the perpetrator. Guns.

Sunday, June 5

On Brexit

There is a real possibility that I will wake up in November with Trump as President and the UK out of the European Union.

Let us focus briefly on Brexit as I have returned my vote, by post, today (23 June deadline).

The Brexit movement is really about anti-immigration which the mostly blue collar and middle classes feel is outside our control and hence Britain does not have a democracy (point of fact: Britain controls its borders from outside of Europe, about 154k entrants last year, while there is free flow of migrants inside the union). The skills and qualities immigrants bring are necessary for Britain, a modern economy that depends on services and technologies not produced inside the country. Plus these people want to work - the idea they are sponging on the social system is absurd. They come for jobs, to work and contribute - which they do on a net economic basis.

Anyone who thinks picking up and moving elsewhere, into the unknown, a joy ride, should have their head examined.

Britain's economy btw expanding albeit not at a terrific clip at .4% in Q1 16.  Unemployment is 5.1%.