Sunday, February 26

The Nationals

Back straight
The course inside ancient Wollaton Park complete with an Elizabethan mansion and gatehouse. Think Sherwood Forrest and Robin Hood. The course is complicated, starting in an open field that consolidates rapidly onto a narrow mud path covering two loops across flagged open fields, along a swampy crick and through deep sucking puddles. I agitate to compete, ah to be 18 again and injury free.
Post race relief
Madeleine and Eitan in good spirit, each competing towards the mid or upper half of the pack for their age-bracket. The races are 600-700 athletes and a scrum for the first kilometre before the beast widens into the gazellean front-runners followed by everybody else huffing and puffing in various states of concentration and agony.

Afterwards we find a nice family pub that takes dogs before the 2 hour drive home.

Pre Race

We drive the M1 (called, simply, The North) to Nottingham so the kids can compete the English national cross country championships the following morning (Saturday). Here we are pre race carbo loading from what's available at the local restaurant : sausages, bacon and anything fried. I force the kids to eat porridge which I imagine has not been ordered here yet this year or ever.

I find I use my camera less these days. The kids remain good models letting me stick a lens in their face most of the time. They encourage me to keep the blog going for family record and enjoyment while my subject matter narrows : Sonnet and I are in-career so not much drama to report while Eitan and Madeleine have their private lives to tend to. They don't want it splashed on the web. There is always the dog.


Sunday morning with the Stones
Every now and again I get a new band on the Shakespeares - recently it's been 'tennis' and 'Car Seat Headrest', thanks mostly to Christian in LA.  But what has been equally encouraging is their taste in retro 1970s music, dumping the useless 90s and jumping over the cheery synth pop of the 1980s.

I overhear songs by The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Simon & Garfunkel and the Stones floating around the house or played in the car, which makes me smile. The classics only get more classic.

Walking on a public street I sing 'Volaire Oh Oh."
Madeleine: "Oh my God dad."
Me: "What, You don't like Volare ?"
Me: "Given the absurdity of the human experience, singing Volare is hardly going to move the needle."

Sunday, February 19

My Urban Chica

Thames, north side
Having turned 15 this moth, Madeleine continues to experiment with being a teenager. It means swings from clothes, moods, interests and music. All about right. 

Lately she is excited about film and screened Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now, which we discuss over the dinner table. I make a few suggestions ("Coming Home" with Jane Fonda; "Ghost In The Shell" by Kôkaku Kidôtai before ruined by Scarlett Johansson). She covers her room with photos of her friends and places and her walls with rock posters from the 1970s. She has moved from comics to film photography; from insects and bugs to vinyls. 

I embarrass her to death (but can also make her smile or, on occassion, laugh - moments I live for). And she makes me feel my age. Sonnet and I are observers to this next generation. Our youthful complexities are not theirs.

She has become the most interesting human being to me.

Brave New World

Everyone should have one of these
This happy face has greeted me every day for nearly 25 years.

Yesterday we go for a walk in the Surrey Hills initially planned for the family but the kids have other plans: Madeleine with friends, Eitan in the books. Fair enough. So it is me and her and the Dog. Soon it will be like this every day. Woof.

It strikes me that there is a possibility that Madeleine will end up in the US - California! - while Eitan, who is more cautious by nature and likes to have his ducks lined up, could remain in the UK. Does it mean if, one day, we return to America we desert the boy ? It's never going to happen.

Donald Trump is a narcissist, a bankrupt and now a defunct Leader. His cabinet a disaster of billionaire hacks of ideologues or money (or both). The transition painful to observe while the Republicans have no plan for anything. Health care? You poor suckers. Manufacturing jobs ? Sorry, Charlie, it is not about Mexico nor killing free trade. The Wall ? 25 billion spent on this nonsense instead of schools. Russia is celebrating while Trump keeps his Russian secrets. Whatever happened to those tax returns anyway ?

No smugness from the UK as we soon activate Article 50.

Tuesday, February 14

Father Son

The boy and I on Saturday after a x-country race on the Wimbledon common where Eitan finishes 14th of c.60 runners.

I return same morning from California and a busy trip, meeting some large institutional investors interested in Astorg, seeing ancient friends and connecting with others including Barney, a former Nasa scientist who sold his company, Power Set, to Microsoft ten years ago. Barney founded Moon Shot and expects to place a robot on the moon in 2018, carried by the Chinese. His expertise is neural networks and AI, where he is tops in the field.

I also connect with Josh, a GP at Top Class Matrix Partners. Josh and I played poker in London for 7 years or so before he went Big Time and founded Flutter, which merged with Betfair, becoming the largest online gambling site in the world, and now publicly traded. I envy Josh who meets the most interesting people, doing (or trying) extraordinary things, at the centre of the tech universe.

In London, Madeleine and I check out the Paul Nash exhibition at the Tate Modern. I am new to his work, which progressed from WWI to abstract paintings, no doubt in part for what he saw on the battlefield.

Thursday, February 9


I visit Dave at the Oakland School of the Art in downtown Oakland. He is the Jazz Program Director and teaches a couple hundred students to make music. Together. And it's good. Dave's life has waited for this job.

The OSA is straight outa Fame (1982 TV where students at New York's famous High School for the Performing Arts pour their hearts and souls into their training to become stars in their chosen field) . The school founded in 2002 with a mission to provide students with immersive, conservatory-style arts training in a college prep setting. The school curriculum revolves around the concept of integration between academic subjects and the arts. OSA currently serves 700 students in grades 6–12. Most of the kids are from challenged backgrounds yet, at school, it is left at the door.

Sunday, February 5

Tunitas Creek Beach

Moody cliffs
I exit San Francisco to connect on HW1 to return to Tunitas Creek Beach where I was with Madeleine in October. Last time I only had my iPhone to take a photo of this beautiful Pacific landscape; this time I have a proper camera and hang around several hours as the skies clear from heavy rains.

I meet a friendly Dutch couple who recently moved to SF from Minnesota and they are excited to be living The Dream. We discuss various places to visit (easy one : Napa, Yosemite, Point Reyes) and differences to Europe (more open space here; California has it all). They wish me luck on my picture taking and I wish them luck with their lives.

Moe and Grace are doing a fabulous job keeping each other fit and loved. Getting old is hard work but not without its dignity.

California Natives

Tyler and I meet 8AM at the Dolphin Club on the northern end of Fisherman's Wharf and below Ghirardelli Chocolates (last time I was in this spot was 1994 when I ran 59:59 for a 10-mile road race knowing full well at the time it was my shot to break an hour. Another story).

Our aim : to swim, well, in the Bay which is 53 F (13.5 C). I've never been in temps like this - coldest perhaps around 60 in the Pacific in a 3/2 density wet suit.  There are a bunch of swimmers, kooks and enthusiasts huddled in the clubhouse drinking coffee and encouraging each other forward or telling stories of when it was really cold. Tyler, Matt and I tip-toe to the small beach in our swim suits and insulating caps then, without preamble, race into the Bay.

It is f***ing freezing and the shock is agonising. The first 15 minutes I am concerned I will hyper-ventilate or worse. Tyler provides encouragement and security though I am not sure he would be so useful if I seize up and go down.

Then, blissfully, the exertion heats the body, the blood rushes inward to protect some organs and my limbs go comfortably numb. We laugh and chat and float in the sunshine, looking across the water at Alcatraz before returning to shore.

The rest of the day I have a distinct buzz. I can see how it is addictive and could be life changing if done regularly.

Saturday, February 4

St Paul's On A Rainy Day

The Saint Paul's skyline never grows tiresome. 
St P remains the friendly face in the ever changing and rapidly heightening skyline. When we arrived, building codes famously prevented skyscrapers from surpassing the dome nor blocking the views of it. In response, tall buildings were concentrated in The City (the Natwest Tower being the tallest for several decades at 43 floors, standing out like a giant boner) and Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs, which no banking professional loved nor wished to work - though today, there is a young professional community around it.

Now, buildings shoot up like stalks above the moss : the counsels get big development dollars and any resistance, other than a few cranky letters from Prince Charles lambasting Qatar and other gulf funders, is lame. London will never be ghastly Singapore nor wonderful Tokyo, but its cityline does creep into the 21st Century.

I take the jumbo from East Sheen to the North Berkeley Hills in under 13 hours, all in. Remarkable how normal this is.

Friday, February 3

Parent Teacher

Feeling fine
Sonnet and I join Madeleine at Emanuel for Madeleine's teacher reviews on 10 subjects. The reports place our gal at where she needs to be for her 2018 GCSEs. Room to improve but on track for good results.

I sure don't recall meetings with my teachers in high school or, for that matter, in college. Brown assigned us Freshmen an Academic Advisor and mine was  professor Thomas Banchoff, a famous mathematician who was on the cover of Time Magazine two weeks before I arrived on campus. Probably not the best match as he scared the hell out of me. I took his calculus class so it wasn't without trying.

Trumps first two weeks have been as expected. We are getting pounded. To think, China may replace the US as the world's global advocate on free trade.