Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Longest Ride

Packing unsuitable shoes, and books I'll never read. It must be vacation time...

Actually I did finish the one on the right. Its an up up all-nighter, but less in a Girl On A Train way and more of a trainwreck, unlikeable couple way.  A 28 year old author and she looks like this: no fair!

So we're back at the Family Vacation Centre at the University of Santa Barbara, with eight other families. It's our 11th year. You know the place... The students take the kids on adventures while parents do whatevs. Basically you don't see the kids all week. "Can't call it family" said one of the kids. Whatevs. 

Harley is back east visiting grandparents so just three sprogs this year..,

Temps have been mid -80's all week, unheard of. Its usually foggy and cold on the CA coast..

And for the 11th year running, all us mothers are back in the beginner surf lessons. We are all in our 50's. Our goal is to stay up for 10 feet. #DreamBig. We aim to rip, tear and lacerate the waves, ever the whilst suspecting that scrambling up and going along is our destiny.  

Its so easy on the sand

And being over 50, these are the sort of conversations we have out in the surf:

Me: Zack, the instructor, looks like that actor thingumy whose father is whatsisname. He was in The Longest Ride. 
Friend: I know exactly who you mean. 
Me: (remembering five mins later) It was Scott Eastwood.
Friend: No, that wasn't who I was thinking of. (Nodding to Zack) So he was in that movie?
Me: Yeah, Scott Eastwood is teaching us surfing. 
Friend: So The Longest Ride is a surf movie?
Me: No, it was about bullriding. 
Friend: Makes sense.

Our fantastic instructors, Zach, Dom and Nena. Look at Zach on left. See?

Monday, June 22, 2015


This was the fabulous Aunt Mary. We traveled to Kansas to honor her last weekend after she died recently. These photos tell more about her than words ever can.

Mary at age 26 with Toto

Love everything about this photo!!! Mary (in the basket) with her siblings, Bill, Rowena and Bob (I think the boy in dungarees was a neighbour friend)

Mary's children Janelle and Brent and one of her four grandchildren, Grady, at the Celebration of Life.

Friends and family and work colleagues stood up and said what Mary had meant to them. Kindness, acceptance, and tolerance: a reluctance to criticise or judge, an ability to make others feel good about themselves.  Another word came up in describing Mary: Character.

Our bookclub just read The Road to Character by David Brooks, the premise being that we should work harder to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame, and status—and our “eulogy virtues,” kindness, bravery, honesty, faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed.

(By the way, our bookclub was undecided on who embodies Character in our times. Who would you nominate?)

When Kevin tried to call his father after Mary died, his father could not stay on the line as he was crying so much. He was heartbroken. Though Mary was 71, she never stopped being his little sister and he never stopped wanting to protect her from harm. In the end he couldn't do that.

What will be your "eulogy virtues" ...what will people will say about you? What do you hope to be remembered for?


It's almost impossible to know what to say about the horrific shooting at a bible reading in Charleston where nine people were killed.

The dignity and faith of the relatives who have expressed their forgiveness has been incredible. That is true courage. Here is the Charleston Post and Courier's moving cover tribute to the victims. Yesterday the Emanuel AME Church re-opened and thousands gathered for the Bridge to Peace event: "We will rise above the hate."

The Emanuel AME Church opened yesterday for services

No more guns. Take down the Confederate flag. 

Sebastopol, Kansas and back to DubsLand

We're not traveling big this summer, but we did have a mini-break last week. I took only two outfits; getting better at packing. Got my usual Donatella spray tan.

This is actually a workout top from Lululemon.

Going for the monochromatic thing

Wheeled out orange Mui Muis that I bought nigh on 15 years ago in Fenwicks, London. I remember the day so clearly. (and yet why don't I remember what I came into this room for?) What with ye olde bunions, they are car-to-bar shoes these days.

We started our journey in Sebastopol, a village up past the wine country, where Whole Foods is like the new Post Office. Our friend, Scott, was turning 50. He seems to have a surfeit of friends who are talented musicians and though I longed to join in (I played second-row guitar in my high school Showband, though I confess to only pretending to strum in the hard bits) I wasn't sure if they knew that Kiwi Classic, Ten Guitars. We talked awhile to another guest who sources wine for wealthy clients from places like sunken ships.

Photo by Kim Otto

The birthday boy told us how some mystery creature had killed two of their chooks (chickens) the previous night. Recently, one chook was stolen without the wire even being ripped - so could not have been the mountain lion they recently saw on a hike. (Crikey! And they say Oakland is dangerous!)

The next day I met up with my writing class at our tutor's family home, also in Sebastopol. A lovely farmlet and their kids played imaginary games in the orchards. I got a bit of writing done but mostly ate all the snacks everyone had bought.

I wish I'd done more writing and less nibbling

We flew to Kansas for Aunt Mary's Celebration of Life (more on that tomorrow).  Kansas is very green and flat with sparkling new strip malls in every direction. Driving in from the airport I kept asking: when are we getting there?  There was no centre to it. Everyone is so friendly and says hi and smiles as they walk past you in the street, which is refreshing and also disconcerting as no one does that in California. I obeyed my hairdresser who always says: get a blow dry as soon as you land, you'll feel much better. It was only $25 - and they played country music and the guy hairdresser said: "Yes Maam."

We saw loads of family photos. Grandmother Elizabeth worked as a social worker in the 1920's. She died shortly after her third child, Mary, was born.

Finally, back home to see Oakland team,  Golden State Warriors, win the NBA Finals, which if you don't live here is like, well, England winning the World Cup plus another big thing as well.  I'm not much of a sports watcher, but I took Cy down to Lake Merritt to celebrate the win with one million (not an exaggeration!) other fans. A great atmosphere and very peaceable and deservedly good publicity for Oakland. What has been really endearing and inspiring about the Warriors is they are a real team: they even eat dinner together when they travel. One of the funniest moments was when Steph Curry's daughter, Riley, dominated the press conference, simply by unselfconsciously being a kid.

DubsNation: Lake Merritt filled with the estimated one million fans gathered to watch the Warriors parade.

Me and Cy

Pets came too
A beautiful day on Lake Merritt and great atmosphere

Star of the series Steph Curry with his wife and the other star of the series, his daughter, Riley. Photo; Mike O'Brien
A great DubsDay

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads in our lives. There are all sorts of things about being a Dad...

*Raising kids that will mix faux leopard and plaid like nobody's business.

Tony, me, Dad, Mum and Pietra and Sharon in the front.

Kids who will continue to dress up at the drop of a hat...

Mum, Sharon, Pietra and me at Mum and Dad's Star Trek party

*Being your first dance partner so you can shine like your should..


My brother Tony with his daughter Cecily.

*Having your back when the swans like the look of your chubby little cheeks.

Harley and Kevin in Kensington Park, London, with the "big ducks"

*Taking it on the chin when there is another day of driving to be done...

Kevin and Tallulah skylarkin around
Some days it's about the big gestures; the speech at your graduation, walking you down the aisle. But mostly being a Dad is about being there every day, having your back, standing for hours on the sidelines, watching your plays, driving in circles around your house.  And being that person for ever afterwards. Cheers to all the constant Dads out there. Man are awesome.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Letter to Tallulah

This week Tallulah's teacher asked all the parents to write a letter to their children as part of 8th Grade graduation. Tallulah is a stubborn Taurean and I'm an opinion-on-everything Aries, so as you can imagine we have our daily battles. First I was kind of annoyed about being asked to do one more thing, grumbling as I opened onto a blank page. But then I wondered why we didn't do it more. Here's my letter.

Hi Tallulah, 

You are 14 years old and you are graduating from 8th Grade! How could that be? How did that happen?

What a long and winding road it's been, with all its tall trees and gurgly streams and knobbly roads and annoying brothers who love you and (mostly) don't say it.

You were born in St Mary's Hospital in London. You arrived in the world quickly and decisively, just like you do everything in life: picking kind, funny friends, organising hang outs with the girls on a Friday, writing and playing music (all the, all the time), writing beautiful poetry, drawing, swimming, picking clothes like your romper suit and knowing exactly which pair of earings from Mexico to wear them with, playing soccer, choosing the exact pizza(!) and eating weetabix last thing at night.

We named you after Tallulah Bankhead, one hell of a woman who loved life and went her own way - just like you Tallulah, dancing and singing to the beat of your own drum. Spending hours and hours composing songs with astounding lyrics and music.  You have a beautiful voice way beyond your years. Mum and Dad and Patty and Bob were just amazed by how you sang with perfect pitch and emotion and how you composed songs they thought were professional. 

When you were born, little did we know that your Great Aunt Mary would find out you were descended from the Cherokee and Tallulah meant Falling Water. Waterfalls (remember that one in Hawaii?) are just the most magical things: strong and defiant and charismatic and everyone wants to be near them, to see them, because they know they are witnessing something other-worldly. 

I love also how you have learned about justice and respect for everyone, how each person is an individual and has the same rights, no matter the colour of their skin, creed or sexual orientation.

Love how you have worked so, so hard, despite all the challenges that academic work has thrown at you through the years, studying for hours and working with tutors and crafting your own way how to deal with things. Still I know it's really hard for you and frustrating and tiring - and mostly it's just not fair that you have to work so much harder than other people!  Yet you still deal with things head-on and you won't back down!! (that would make a good title for a song, eh?)

We love you Tallulah with the curls, Tallulah the songbird and Tallulah athlete with the long legs and with the kindness to others and the silly sense of humour and Tui-and-the-teacup way of looking at life and putting it down in a poem. You are a true born artist and like any true born artist you show us ourselves and the rest of the world in a different, astounding way.  In a way that is sometimes elvish tinkling, sometimes big-drum thumping and all of it good. 

Well, we feel lucky that you were born and that you will always be in our lives. And that we will get to watch you grow into whatever you want to be.

Much love, always and forever, 
Your Mum, Jody

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What I Wore

Here's a few of the outfits the old mother wheeled out for Graduation Week.

Leather skirt: Banana Republic Tell you whoever took over design at that place is doing a decent job
My smile looks bit constipated in this one...

 It gets cold in Oakland at night. Sweater for restaurants

Love blue as you know...Skirt and top, Elie Tahari. Skirt is made from that scuba material. (Would someone  please make her bed??)

Has holes in it (do not fear -  has underskoit)

Added the white bootays to the Back to the Well dress. Hubstar not keen on White Boots. I said too jolly bad, that's how I roll, man. Plus they are bunion-kind, sort of. 

Are you a fan of the Minnie Mouse thing?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Graduation Weekend

Decompressing from Harley's Graduation Weekend. Emotionally and physically wrunged out from the eat, drink and repeat. And ploppy tears. Bubs is off. High School graduation is huge here in the US, probably bigger than graduating from Varsity.

The day after graduation, looking on Facebook, I had major posting envy. Another mother (of a girl) had posted gorgeous photos: bright, light, colorful with all the extended family lined up and looking suitably congratulatory. The girl graduate had clearly organised all the family to meet in one spot after the ceremony. Everyone in my family loathes my taking photos and most of my snaps turned out blotchy. There were no group photos (or actually any more than three people) "That's the difference between having a girl and a boy," said a friend.

Harley, Mum and Dad - our "Group " photo, minus the eight others
Mum and Dad arrived from NZ, Kevin's parents came from Pennsylvania and his brother from Denver.

Harley entering Baccalaureate (Graduation) Mass

Baccalaureate Mass in the gym. I'm not particularly religious but it was very moving and many rolling down tears. The High School years go in a flash
After mass: Harley , third from left, with his friends .
There was loads of eating at regular intervals. Kept going to the gym. Mum and Dad noted that I would not have to have to go to the gym if I washed the windows or did the housework myself. Something to think about.

And loads of Mexican food for lunch

CholitaLinda, Oakland

Thank goodness for the umbrella on the deck.

We walked the seven mile Bay Bridge. Despite a soupcon of a smile in this photo, Cy, 11, called it "the worst afternoon of my life."

Tallulah, Kevin and Cy. Having fun yet?

Dad walking the Bay Bridge

And then there was the graduation ceremony in the beautiful art deco Paramount Theatre - where the orchestra pit pops up from below stage, oldstyle.

Harley (right) and his friend Tyler

The art deco Paramount Theatre in Oakland

We had fried chicken at home afterwards. No fancy dancy brunch for us.

Grandma Patty from Pennsylvania and Grandma Madeleine from NZ.

Cousin Janelle and Lila, Harley and Grandma Patty

The backyard

That night we got together with 10 other families for a big party in a school gym - we were going to be 200 people in total. The other mothers are awesome organisers. I'm happy to be a follower and do as I'm told. However there was one soupcon of confusion - and it ended up that I didn't order the 30 pizzas. Panic stations people! But this is America and Cybelles can make those pizzas in 30 mins! Crisis averted.... My life is a one exciting rollercoaster, tell ya.

Setting up our party for 200

Apparently you can have anything printed on MandMs
Mum and Dad hit the dance floor first. Their moves span most of the styles, from classic to jaunty to experimental.

The next day was downtime (sort of) and Steve showed the whole family around their 11,000 sq ft home which was very generous (Pottery Barn was doing a shoot there so we had to careful of the cords). The garden has really come in - look at that wonderful artichoke plant - and they have some new chicks to add to their flock of 26.

Steve and Josh's garden has really come in
Back garden

Steve showing us some of the new chicks

Well that was graduation weekend. The whole senior year is stressful here in the US, unbelievably stressful, even if, like us, you'd vowed not to be sucked into the mad vortex of college applicationarama (Where is your child going, what are their SATs, PSATs GPAs, what Extracurriculars?)  Then last minute we got sucked in, no question. Employing what feels like a whole village to guide us through it all.  There's exams, writing the essay, finding something that's happened to you so you can write the essay, visiting schools, applying to schools, visiting more schools, keeping up your grades and organising all the grad parties.  I always thought it was weird when people ask parents: what high school do you go to? Now I know. Because we're all doing senior year, but parents are doing it without the dewy skin and full head of hair.

I felt ten years younger the day after the graduation ceremony. And then realised, "Gosh he really is leaving home."

Harley. Who spent hours as a toddler crawling up just one part of the climbing frame in Kensington Park, London, who screamed with laughter when Kevin recited the Italian soccer team every night, who drove us crazy with his insistence on singing Wheels On The Bus including all the names of his pre-school class. Who arrived at his Oakland public school with a posh London accent and extremely shy but by the end of the week wailed: "Oh God, not another bloody Learning Centre!" Who at age five got baby Tallulah out of her cot in the morning and fed Cy his cereal and made up games for all of them. Who played whiffle ball in the backyard with friends every Friday night, then almost killed us with worry at high school wanting his independence and his own life. Who made us so proud with his politeness and kindness to those who needed his help. Who has stayed friends with his classmates from when he was five years old, through all their academic pressures and parties and disappointments and fun times. Yes, all those Harleys are leaving and I have been exhausted and relieved and happy for him and so, so ready for him to go. But today I'm just sad. Because I just realised he really is leaving.

Cy and Harley, 15 years ago

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