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1998: Alex cruises in

This is the letter that we sent to friends and family around Christmas of 1998. We’ve edited a little, in particular to add a few more photos, but the below is very much the same as what we sent.


When Alex was only a few weeks old, we all took a stroll out to the beach at Rio del Mar. It was Nick and Tom’s first visit from Paris that year. Here are mother and baby, doing fine in the fresh sea air.

Christmas brings you all our best wishes, as ever. Particularly this year, when we have often felt isolated, it is a pleasure to get in touch with you and remember that our community may be scattered, but it is still there.

1998 brought its best news at the beginning of the year. Alexander arrived on January 22: our first blue-eyed boy. His mother did not want to be away from her home for any longer than necessary, and was out of the hospital (with her doctor’s blessing, needless to say) less than six hours after arriving! The little chap is big and progressing well, enthusiastically exploring cupboards and drawers all day long. Sue (my sister) thinks he looks like his father.

Surprise, surprise, the big kids found something to do on the beach that day! There had been a storm, and they duly started building something with the wood that storms always throw up on our beaches. This heavy tree stump may have been a bit too much for them: I don’t remember the outcome.

In honor of his arrival and (in the interests of completeness) in order to do something about the absurd disparity in life insurance premiums based on smoking, I quit on January 17. The cravings are now few and far between, and Marie-Hélène quit in October. So we both feel rather pleased with ourselves.

Unfortunately, the bad things that 1997 brought us remained stubbornly immutable all year long. Our furniture remains blocked by Tison, a blackmailing moving company in France (“pay double the estimate or we won’t deliver your furniture”), and the French court competent to judge the matter will not even hear it before March of 1999, 21 months after our departure. One can’t accuse French justice of being ruthlessly efficient!

This was a tough day for dad!  They dragged me panting and heaving to the top of Yosemite Falls, and I realized that they are already (at 12 and 9) more fit than I (at 37, more or less!).

Nick and Tom remain in Paris, although they did visit us four times during the year, and we were able to spend a lot of time together this last summer.  The court that changed their residence when we left France (so that they could continue to attend French schools and offer psychological support to their mother) appointed a psychiatrist to examine them and us after their headmistress called in social services a few times. That’s a French synonym for the school noticing problems within a student’s family. The psychiatrist came all the way to Santa Cruz to meet everybody in our blended family, and told us that the boys should rejoin us. So now we wait and see.

We had a few welcome visitors during the year (and none who were unwelcome!). Here are Carline and David Sandles, Tristan and Shaun with most of us on the beach. Note Alex looking: as a baby, he always looked very intently.

It still feels great to be back home. Santa Cruz remains a fascinating and diverse place, with its cafes and terraces that can delight even a Parisian and its beaches and waves for her children. It cannot be a coincidence that Alban only ever wants as a present something that ends in “-board,” and that Santa Cruz’s prime industry (apart from the Silicon Valley fallout) is manufacturing various boards. If you know the trademark “O’Neill‘, you know Santa Cruz’s best-known product.

This was taken at Raging Waters, a water park in San Jose, shortly before Marie-Hélène quit smoking.

I took a real job in March, for the first time since the summer of 1992. Lots of hard, hard work, but very satisfying. The law firm (Wilson Sonsini et al) is the biggest in Silicon Valley, and the “deal flow” (as they say here) is incredible. The commercial future of high-tech passes across our desks. The extra years in France have made the return here more complicated professionally, but for the moment at least even a square peg can find his place.

Here’s Daphné during her one soccer season. She may not have taken to the sport, but she did have fun!

Life in our “hers, his and theirs” household continues its merry rights of passage through the childhood years.

The various absences are disconcerting (after Nick and Tom have been absent since August, Daphné and Alban will now be in Paris for Xmas), but the noise, the amazing variety of small objects constantly appearing underfoot and the high and low moments (not forgetting the noise) remind us day after day how blessed we are.

Now, if we could just get the furniture back . . . !

Alban with Alex in May.

A warm thanks to everybody who helped us get moving over here, most notably John Fore and Oded Eran, and a warm “salut” to all those that we miss in France and England. Our apologies for the late arrival of these good wishes.

We wish you all good health and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.


Here are the other diary years: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009