Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Party frocks

If you're lucky enough to be a female, non-American partner of a business school student then you might be invited along to the Chancellor's Wife's Ladies Tea Party for International Spouses.

If you don't fit into those categories then you spend the morning waiting for them to return so we can go out for this week's partners' lunch...

How kind of you to let me come.

They grow up so fast!

I had the pleasure of looking after Logan today. Last time was a few months back when he came to the Jelly Belly factory with Rachel and me, and that day he was content to sit in his papoose and be carried about.

Today - wow! We have standing, walking, dancing, pointing, chatting...I remember when he was just a kid.

On his own two feet.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Chapter and verse

Several weeks ago I found Bible Scattergories in one of our local charity shops. It was a $2 bargain, but I've been hard pressed to find anyone who wants to play (strange...)

Imagine my joy to be invited over to Loren and Tamara's house for an evening of Bible food (red lentil soup, loaves and fishes snacks) and a game. It's what Hannah and I did those degrees in theology for!

Unfortunately things didn't work out quite as planned. Loren and Tamara are Mormons, and as part of their missionary work actually have to learn about the Bible (something we never really bothered with at uni). We were somewhat humiliated but, honestly, how many Assyrian controlled towns beginning with H can you think of?


Durham University Department of Theology and Religion: 0
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: 1

The sweet taste of victory.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The chaos of the three-year-old party

It was Hannah Singer's third birthday party this Saturday. I was relieved to have been invited, as I'd been told "you're not coming to my party" every time I'd refused to give her chocolate/sweets/etc. for the last few months.

Elise and Elliot organised a big get together in our local play park. The weather might have been damp and cold, but the huge range of desserts on offer kept adults and children alike happy. I was also pleased to be hide-and-seek champion, doubly impressive (I like to think) for being 25+ years older than all other contestants.

Me and Daphny at the grown-ups' table.

Birthday girl and cake.

On my way to winning hide-and-seek.

Wild monkeys spotted in local park!

Whose birthday was it?

Thanks again to Dana for most of the photos above. I've ordered myself a new camera...

Hots of the Tots

You may not have realised from reading this blog, but a large part of the lives of many University Village residents has been missing for the last few months. A well-loved and respected local institution had closed its door, and not even whispers of a renovation could lift our spirits.

So it gives me great relief to report that today The Hotsy Totsy Club reopened its door to all Albany locals, layabouts and lunctime drinkers! Sadly Vince was away seeing his parents, who had travelled half-way across the country to meet him in Lake Tahoe (what kind of excuse is that?) But Amir, Dana, Elliot, Elise, Hannah and I hopped and skipped our way up San Pablo to the Bay Area's favourite dive bar.

And what a change! New ceiling, new floor, re-sanded shuffleboard table, real jukebox playing 45s, sofa area behind the door...and most importantly, every bulb in the sign fixed. Cheers!

Elise and Amir check out the new, faster, shuffleboard table. Did someone say hyper-competitive business school students addicted to winning? They vowed to be back tomorrow.

Elliot and Dana drink a toast.

Before and after. The new, brighter-than-the-sun sign (thanks to Dana for her photographic expertise).

Friday, 23 January 2009

Up the blog without a camera

I've come unstuck a few times in the last week or two when I've found myself lacking a camera. This has always been a conscious choice, the idea being to relax and enjoy myself, to show greater respect to the event and the people involved by not photographing them non-stop. To actually take part in what's going on around me, rather than just read about it later ("hey, that inauguration looked really fun!")

Unfortunately it has tended to have the opposite effect. Dana and Amir were most upset not to be greeted back from their holiday by flashbulbs at the airport. "So you don't consider my birthday party blogworthy?!" an outraged Amanda asked me on Tuesday. And, once again, I found myself last night without my trusty Canon and with lots going on.

The location was Ashkenaz, a sort of dance hall nightclub place just down from us on San Pablo Avenue. They host salsa classes during the day and have an endless stream of live bands in the evening. Last night was the turn of The Rubber Souldiers, a Beatles tribute band with a twist: they believe that three-minutes is far too short for the perfect pop songs of Lennon/McCartney, and make it their mission to extend them. For a long time. A looooooooong time.

Sometimes this works. Who doesn't want to twist and shout for a little while longer? That song is over just as you're warming up. A rocked-out I Saw Her Standing There had me shaking my booty with the best of them.

However, after 18 minutes of Glass Onion even the most rabid Beatles fan would be losing the will to live. Or so I thought...

The invitation to see "an extended psychedlic Beatles tribute band" had not driven my fellow Albany residents into much of a frenzy, and so it was only Dana and I who braved the trip out. Things were a little strange when, on walking into the place, we found ourselves to be the youngest people there by some margin. Most of our fellow partygoers had seen the 60s, and plenty of them were still there.

Then the dancing started.

The main attraction was a man the wrong side of 65 who whipped off his shoes, socks and T-shirt and danced bare-chested all night. "Wow, he can dance to anything!" Dana exclaimed, and she wasn't wrong. Whether it was a George Harrison Indian-infused oddessey, an early Lennon rocker or, indeed, the five minute break when the band left the stage and there was no music playing he girated, shook and strutted his stuff. At one point he attempted a Yogic sun blessing.

Others were somewhat less flamboyant, but no less embarrassing. Dancing should be made illegal once you reach a certain stage in life (after kindergarten?), and any campaign to that effect should show footage from last night. Couples mangled the salsa with gay abandon, and two people obviously on the verge of their third mid-life crisis even began riverdancing to Here Come the Sun. I contemplated calling an ambulance.

Sadly all the goodwill gained from this (and, possibly, the thick fog of illegal smoke being slowly circulated by the ceiling fans) was somewhat squandered by the gig's middle-section of obscure, slow, drawn out dirges. I was waiting for Revolution #9 to start, but we were spared that.

And so at 12.45am Dana and I found ourselves to be two of the dozen people left in the club, determined to squeeze every last painful cent from the $10 entrance fee. I can't remember what the final song was, but we had certainly witnessed a true slice of the 60s (with genuine original fixtures). Like everything in Berkeley, it was just running a little late.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

The loneliness of the Haas partner

It's tough being a Haas partner. We have to seek out stolen moments with our students in between their lectures, cover letter writing, internship searches, club activities, etc. This can lead to acute feelings of boredom, loneliness and frustration.

I'm sure these thoughts were foremost in everyone's minds as we met for our first weekly partners' lunch of 2009 at China Village, Berkeley! Don't let the smiling photos fool you, we're all crying inside...

Fini managed to fit in lunch with us before shooting off for a weekend of skiing at Lake Tahoe.

A cheeky dentist shows off his teeth.

Daphny is shocked by the accuracy of her fortune cookie: "You will shortly be asked to pay some money for food."

We didn't eat that much...

We switched locations for coffee, to a place that Dana swears serves the best cup in Berkeley. Marta, recently joining the partners from Italy, agreed.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

LIVE from the Obama Inauguration

...as close as you can get on the West Coast, anyway...

Berkeley Uni has set up a cinema screen in Sproul Plaza to show the events of the day. Unfortunately, because of some strange idea of having different times in the same country, everything is starting at 7.30am here. Nevertheless, a small crowd dedicated to democracy will be catching the 7.59am bus from university village.

Because of the campus-wide wireless network I will be attempting to blog live as events unfold, an electronic Dimbleby if you will. Stay tuned.

7.03am - Woke up before my alarm, got out of bed, brushed teeth, shower, got dressed.

7.21am - Sunrise.

7.29am - Breakfast of toast and marmite with orange juice.

7.58am - The bus arrives, early! It's amazing.

8.27am - Get off a few stops early so Dana can pick up a coffee.

8.42am - We're at the Inauguration...there are a lot of people in Sproul Plaza, but there's free tea, coffee and orange juice at the front (if you can get there...) Cheers ring out every time Obama appears on the big screen, or is even mentioned.

8.47am - The announcement of the the pastor from Saddleback Church draws a few hisses from the crowd. Berkeley, honestly!

8.53am - Aretha Franklin gets the biggest cheer of the morning...

8.57am - Joe Biden, Vice President (from Scranton, Pennsylvania) gets sworn in. Cheering (and whooping)!

The young faces of hope in America today.

8.59am - Some kind of musical performance. The crowd are growing restless for the main event as the Berkeley campanile chimes 9am. Hannah Singer screams because her sister Maya won't give her a bite of bread.

9.04am - Here's the man! Barack Obama comes forward to take the oath of office...

- And he's in! After a few fluffed lines the crowd goes wild for President number 44.

9.07am - It's the Presidential address. There are a number of sniggers as GW is mentioned, but cheers at every mention of "hope", "change" and (of course) the environment.

9.14am - Promises about more investment in science and universities go down pretty well here...

9.19am - The President goes through a list of the faiths of America. "Nonbelievers" gets a huge round of applause from the Berkeley crowd. Please.

9.21am - It's nice to be stood here in a T-shirt looking at the wrapped-up people in Washington.

9.27am - Speech over, the stage is given over to a poet. The Berkeley students stream from the plaza! Philistines!!

9.34am - The Singer children leave for school, tired but elated to have witnessed history. At least, that's how I interpret Sofia's screams.

9.37am - Show's over, Hannah's off to school and I'm off home.

Monday, 19 January 2009


I was surprised to hear that America holds a public holiday to celebrate the life of a 16th Century German monk (that's a theology joke that, surprisingly, very few people around here find funny...) but Martin Luther King Day marks the end of Hannah's Christmas holiday. The Haas students are sad, and their partners have organised lunch out to "commiserate" with each other.

It's been another ridiculously hot day here in California and the pictures below are really just to encourage you to move out here (or, at least, come and see us for a holiday).

Tomorrow will feature a very special live* blog from the Obama Inauguration!

* possibly

It's January 19th! Surely this isn't right.

Most people can't tell us apart from normal Americans now.

Albany beach's not-quite-golden sands.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Can't see the food for the cheese

Tonight The Pasta Shop, a posh foodie place just down from us in Berkeley, was hosting a cheese tasting. It's too expensive to buy anything, but if they're giving away cheese them I'm there! The evening was really to celebrate the launch of American Cheeses, and the author Clark Wolf was there in person.

Now, normally I'd argue that unless it's yellow, hard and comes from a place in Somerset called Cheddar, then it shouldn't really be classed as a cheese. That said, there were a number of very tasty dairy comestibles on display, from lemon-infused blues to goat and sheep numbers.

By my fourth circuit of free samples I was stuffed, and some of the stall holders were beginning to recognise me ("Perhaps it's your hair," Amir commented helpfully. With friends like cheese, who need enemies?)

Cheese shop owner (left), author (right).

Nice food. They sell a dozen different types of salt. Salt!

This is the good stuff - hard goats' cheese full of fresh peppercorns.

The big cheese.

Dana and Amir display their cheese-devouring weapons of choice. They managed to steal even more than me!

No, your eyes do not deceive you. This little delicacy will set you back $18.50! I'm not sure how comfortable I'd feel nibbling on the next US President.

"I think he's confusing his Gruyere with his Jarlsberger," muses Claire.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Sweet rewards

We looked after Claire this afternoon. Vince and Christine bought us some cake.



Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Many happy returns

With term looming, the itinerant Haas students are slowly drifting back to the village. While we wait for Amanda, Fini, Pete, etc. we held a little party today to welcome back Dana and Amir from their four weeks in South America. Unfortunately Hannah and I have had to say goodbye to their car, which they'd kindly lent us for the time they were away. No more late-night drive-in movies...

Guess who's back!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Heaping hot coals

Surely this is some sort of record! The first barbecue of the year on January 11th!! Perhaps not as impressive as if we'd been in England, but noteworthy nonetheless.

So that's it - from a British perspective our one barbecue of the year has been completed. Anything more is a bonus that signifies an astonishingly good summer.

Barbecue, American style (hat compulsory).

Hannah attends to the important part of the meal.

We borrowed some burgers from Moran.

Now we're cooking! It got more impressive later...

Tucking in: Maulshree, Akhil, Vince, Christine, Claire, me.

Left hand = beer, right hand = frisbee.

Vince plays by the same rules.

I was wondering why a frisbee looks bigger the closer it gets to you, and then it hit me!

Claire. A burger, a beer, and then a snooze.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Pancake day

The weekend started well, with an invitation to pancakes at Anat's. It was quite a gathering with a banquet on offer: fruit salad, apple pie, banana or plain pancakes with fillings of Nutella, cream cheese and cinnamon, maple syrup...

It also provided a wonderful opportunity to bring out the old guitar game, so cruelly forgotten in the wake of owning an Xbox. The excuse was that Eran and Dana had brought along their two boys, Nadav and Sivan, but in truth we just wanted some old-school playing. Ah, the happy sounds of tinny computerised tunes, "the music of my nightmares" as Sagy uncharitably put it.

No sooner had we come home from this three-hour breakfast than Akhil and Maulshree knocked on the door and wondered if we wanted to join them at 4.30pm for Pimms o'clock. There are some things that the British still do best (aside from everything).

And I've heard whispers of a barbecue tomorrow...

The Polish mother prepares the feast.


Daphny and Moran discuss the merits of Israeli food.

There's a new guitar hero in town - Nadav.

Later, at Pimms o'clock: Akhil, Ran, Michael, Tanqueray, Hannah.

Friday, 9 January 2009

New Year, new you

The British are a race well known for their tireless pursuit of physical fitness and the perfect physique. So it was natural that, as the sun shone over Berkeley and temperatures soared, Akhil gave me a call to see if I wanted to play tennis. I grabbed my $4 thrift store racket and slipped on my shorts.

It was doubly appropriate as today Andy Murray beat Roger Federer, and with these thoughts we ventured out onto the tennis courts next to uni village. Hannah joined us, as did Megha, and thankfully there was no one else around to watch as we pranced and pirouetted like drunken ballerinas. We had a great time! Until Sagy arrived and beat everyone...

Proud to represent our country at the highest level (of...?)

From left: Hannah (Dorset), Megha (India), Akhil (Manchester), David (no fixed abode).

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Slow news day

Wow - take the visitors, friends and school term out of our lives and they become pretty boring. My highlight of yesterday was using all four washing machines in our building's laundry at the same time! And I can tell you, those timers on them are not that accurate.

Today has been far more exciting, and we babysat Claire while Christine was out as a voluntary board member of a local charity - a project that Haas runs for various of its students.

She's not an easy girl to please (Claire, that is, but equally true of Christine), and smiles were at a premium. We were also given the task of transitioning her onto formula milk, which she did not take kindly to. But I did get some cute photos.

Of course, the one photo I get of her vaguely smiling is blurred. Nice bib, by the way.

Hannah was certainly flavour of the day.