Sunday, January 29

Ze Tate

A father daughter moment
Madeleine and I check out the Robert Raushenberg retrospective at the Tate Modern. Here is our hero on the train ride home.

For a period of time we lost Eitan to adolescence and today I fear it is Madeleine. I still get the occasional slight smile or even giggle for my jokes but more often then not it is the rolled eyes, or . . silence. I feel for the kid : routine, hard work and no end in sight. What is the payback ? It is for her and us to find out.

Eitan At The Races

Back stretch
Eitan finishes in the middle of the pack and with a good attitude: It is a hard race, run two days after the Middlesex school qualifier, where he places 9th of 60 with the top 6 assured a spot; Eitan is an alternate. Today it is on to football.

Me: "You have a choice. You can pick the museum we go to."
Madeleine: "What ? What's my other choice?"
Me: "I can pick it."

The Calm Before The Storm

Hamstead Heath, -2 degrees
Eitan runs the U17 Southern Cross Country Championships on Hamstead Heath, pictured, and it is like the Somme before the battle. The race start is at the base of Parliament Hill giving us spectators a perfect vantage point, a half mile out and on top of the hill, to watch the huffing and puffing beast heading towards us at a rapid clip.

The course is 7k and unforgiving -  the first kilometre includes the hill and separates the conditioned and natural athletes from the rest; there is really no recovery from the start.

Sonnet returns from a week in Colorado where she has been with Stan. I have duly managed the household without her and pizza delivery only once. Otherwise I fall into a routine without comfort: 6AM dog walk; defrost the car, prep the kids for school nd drive to train station. I keep the evenings free to pick up Eitan and Madeleine from track or other activities then dinner at home, often in front of the TV. Not ideal, but they are working hard.

Me: "Why do you have a bottle of ketchup in your room?"
Madeleine: "No idea."

Sunday, January 22

Winter Day

Back streets
It is one of those dark winter days that casts long shadows. It reminds me of NYC walking around the Bowery or Lower West Side but never California. It is a mood.

Eitan and I go to the Imperial War Museum (his pick, against his will). We catch the Sunday train to Waterloo and walk the 15 minutes across Southwark, greeted by the two 15 inch diameter, 54 foot long naval guns commissioned in 1914 and today posted at the front museum entrance. They saw last action on D Day, sending missiles 16 miles into German occupied France at reasonable precision.

I lose myself in the The Great War while Eitan studies the Holocaust and Cold War period, which he studies in school. Walking home we find a hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant on a shabby Victorian side-street. It is excellent.

Eitan: "How much does a flat cost?"
Me: "In London, depends where, but let's say 800k."
Me: "That means you will have to save 80k for a deposit on a mortgage."
Eitan: "I'm not really sure what that means."
Me: "Well, let's assume you get a good job after uni paying 40k.. ."
Eitan: "How much is that per hour ?"
Me: "It's not really something you calculate. You do a good job, you get 40k. If not, you get fired."
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "So assuming you can save 10k a year, it will take 8 years for the down payment.'
Eitan: "That's a long time."
Me: "Or you could live in some cool cheaper city where young people go like Berlin or Barcelona. I would love to have done that."
Eitan: "And learn Spanish ?"
Me: "You already know it. Or you could go to the United States. There are wonderful cities other than New York. Like Seattle, or LA or Boston. "
Eitan: "I get kind of stressed thinking about leaving. I would never see my friends again."
Me: "You guys have media that I didn't at your age. You can stay in touch with them."
Eitan: "I think once I leave, I will never come back."
Me: "It might be the case. It is all part of life."

Pussy Power

Grosvenor Square
I join college friend Katy for the Women's March which is also a de facto protest against The Clown and all he stands for. Katie joins the walk in Washington DC, which attracts something like 500,000 people while London it is 100,000 (Madeleine unable to join given a hill session in Richmond Park).

It is freezing at Grosvenor Square where the march begins but nobody complaining and the vibe is good, if defiant. We stand about for an hour waiting to .. walk. The female: male ratio is 6 or 7 to 1 by my estimate. I have never been surrounded by so many women demanding their reproductive and sexual rights which makes me think: none of these folks went to Brown. And its corollary: I went to the wrong college.

Our walk accompanied by chanting, the inevitable Caribbean drums, bands and encouragement along the way. It is a powerful tour de force. Will it create momentum or be swept away by current events?

Sunday, January 8

Surrey XC Champs

Madeleine and Rebecca compete
Madeleine competes the Surrey Cross Country championships. It's a hilly 4k course and Madeleine battles the mud and elements valiantly, finishing in the middle of the pack (60 girls in here age bracket). Eitan out with the flu.

I join Dave and Tabitha and their family in Bath for their Twelfth Night party, which Tab has been hosting for 29 years. Sonnet and I first joined in 2001. Our families met in Maida Vale when the women pregnant with Eitan and Neta.

At the party I always meet a bunch of interesting people and this year re-connect with Holly, a fire-cracker who founded the Bath Film Festival. Holly a feminist who created the F Rating which rates films based on female participation (Director, production, actors ) which is now used by 40 organisations including the BAFTA in the UK. Holly did a TED ex talk on it in November.

Thursday, January 5

Cold Mornings

Rusty smells a deer
The dog, for his part, never misses the opportunity to roll around in deer shit.

The hard shock of post-holiday re-entry is now behind us. At least, for those who bit the bullet and went back to work early. 

The Christmas trees begin to line the streets. Every year I "call" the last one with a text to Sonnet : ie, the final hold-outs of the holiday season. The record is mid March.

Madeleine up at 6:30AM in a chipper mood and ready to take on physics at the morning bell. Her first exam in the New Year.

Wednesday, January 4

A Day At The Office

Madeleine cranks out the physics
Madeleine joins me at work to do some studying. It seems like a good idea until I have to wake her at 8:30AM and am reminded, dear reader, that teenagers live by a different rhythm.

The resentfulness lasts until late morning while I earn a few lines of conversation for lunch - her favourite, sushi.  Shopping establishes further goodwill until the commute home, when we split so she can visit friends in Wimbledon.

She is utterly charming with my colleagues.

Madeleine: "Your work friends seem pretty posh."

The Jets

West Side Story is a hit
The photo a bit late, but here is Eitan from the October production of West Side Story. 

The boy made significant sacrifices of football practice and matches to ensure his performance of Pepe was well delivered. And it was.

Sonnet and I most delighted by Eitan's willingness to take on something outside the comfort zone. The production complex with choreographed set pieces and singing. Eitan had a few lines, too.

Monday, January 2

A Year In Review

Self portrait XXXXX

Eitan 16

Eitan is a fine young man
Today, setting the tone on the first working Monday of 2017, Britain takes a bank holiday. I roll with it.

Madeleine and I head to the pool to swim laps, me with flippers to work on stroke technique. Swimming truly is the best middle-age exercise but for the nuisance of it all. If I had a decent pool nearby, preferably outdoor, I would be a changed man.

Sonnet goes into post-holiday action, unleashing 2 weeks of building tension: tree stripped and hauled outside. Check. Christmas decorations to attic. Check. Refrigerator defrosted, house scrubbed and aired, shelves re-organised. Check and double check.

Tomorrow it is back to official work.

Sunday, January 1

A New Year

11th episode in a row
The New Year rolls in .. and rolls out. I pick up Eitan and three girls at a party in Teddington, then Madeleine and Wills at a party in Wimbledon.  All in, two hours of driving but who's complaining ? It's a window into the Shakespeares lives though, last night anyway, the pay load is minimal. It's 1AM and the kids too tired to banter.

Seeing out the New Year, Sonnet and I start on "The Good Wife", a cable series about a woman who returns to lawyering after her cheating husband in jail for scandal. I bail after three episodes but Sonnet watches an entire series in 24 hours.

Me, over dinner: "Your mom is really into The Good Wife."
Sonnet: "It is rather addictive."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "She's watched 11 hours of television."
Sonnet: "Last year we listened to War & Peace on the BBC."
Me: "And she's wearing her pajamas.  It's 6 O'Clock. Next thing you know she's going to have a second piece of pizza and ice cream for desert."
Eitan: "What's wrong with that?"
Me: "This is your mother we're talking about."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "She's on the edge."