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1999: Nick and Tom back

Our Holiday Card in 1999. There were no photos in the text of what was sent to friends and family in 1999. This was it.


Here in Santa Cruz, 1999 has been a very good year.

Here’s hoping that your year has gone half as well!

First things first.

On April 15, 1999 the Versailles Court of Appeals, demonstrating that its heart was big enough to admit having made a mistake, transferred, effective July 1999, the residence of Nicholas and Thomas to us in Santa Cruz. We had lived apart for two long years.

Alex and his maman, happy clappy. I think that this was taken in Disneyland.

Once back with us, the boys wanted to learn to skateboard and surf. So on Labor Day weekend in 1999, when O’Neill’s Surf Shop had its best annual sale, in we all went to buy five (count ’em) wetsuits!

The top photo was taken after an afternoon’s boogie-boarding on Capitola Beach.

A word about O’Neill‘s, which says something about Silicon Valley.If you recognize one trademark from Santa Cruz, “O’Neill” is likely to be it. 

During Nick and Tom’s April visit, we stopped by the Hanlons, where Annie took this one.

Jack O’Neill started out catering to local surfers (of which he was one) in a rickety little shed-like store at one of the local beaches. Not long after, he tried to register the mark “Surf Shop.” He couldn’t get it, of course: generic terms cannot be trademarked.

Brushing this bureaucratic refusal aside, he continued on his way to creating one of the most recognizable marks of surf and ski clothing and equipment in the world. There are a lot of answers to the question of what is the magic formula for Silicon Valley: no answer is complete without including that indefatigable American sense of commerce.

Charles, Brendan and Alex at the Hanlons for July 4th, 1999, before our summer vacation. Annie took this one too.

So we’re all together again.

Life as a family of eight is amazing, at least so Marie-Hélène tells me! I’m only home with the family on weekends (demanding job and a long commute), and based on that limited experience don’t know how she handles it.

Alex (2 this coming January) follows her around constantly, emptying whatever drawers she is near and worshiping his big brother. Charlie (4 already) spends most of the time when he is not playing with Alex with his sister’s Gameboy or in front of his brothers’ Nintendo or PlayStation.

Alex in Higginson Park in Marlow during our summer holiday.

Charlie is our youngest skateboarder and surfer, and you have not lived until you have watched him whizzing down our steep driveway sitting on his skateboard.

Charles in the same park, during the same visit.

Tom and Alban (each turned 10 in the fall of 1999) have slotted back into their old relationship, each adopting the bad side of the other! Tom got a basketball hoop for his birthday and is building a treehouse on the property with cast-off wood. Alban still revels in his soccer, and perhaps because of Tom’s arrival has for the first time applied himself at school.

Daphné (12) is to no-one’s surprise beginning to be interested in relationships outside of the home. She has her own telephone now, and we are pathetically grateful that she has her own line and that local calls in the US remain free (for those of you who wonder how the Internet got off to such a flying start here, there’s the best reason)!

Nick (13) received his first computer for his birthday, so that he can now download video games as well as waste all his pocket money on them. He loves that PC! Thank you eMachines. He is our first child in Middle School, sometimes called Junior High, and thus had to find his footing alone in a new school: a real challenge.

Tom’s first school photo at Happy Valley School, September 1999.

We all went to France this summer, everyone but me for at least five weeks. I fitted in two weeks. One was spent visiting England, and in particular Erdington Abbey in Birmingham to pay our respects to mum and thank her for our home in Santa Cruz. We also visited Cadburyland and said “Hello” to Aunty Vi, Ronnie and Louise and Aunty Alice. “We” for this trip did not include Daphné and Alban, who were with Pierre, their dad.

Nick and Alban on rented go-carts in Pismo Beach during our March vacation driving up the Coast.

On to almost a week in Saint Malo on the north Brittany coast.  Marie-Hélène and the little ones spent most of their vacation in her father’s cottage on the edge of the Forest of Broceliande. While there, Alex developed a weak spot for “les vaches.” Daniel, grandpa’s next-door neighbor, makes his living out of about a dozen cows. It was a lovely visit, if a little hectic when I was there, because I had to get back to work.

I say “had to get back”, but must admit that this may be the best legal job I ever had.

Daphné at Disneyland in Anaheim in February 1999, in line for the “train fou,” Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is the most important law firm in Silicon Valley, and the wheeling and dealing is non-stop and out of control. Start-up “.com” companies walk in the door daily, make deals with each other with lightning speed, and before you know it are unleashed upon the world in an IPO. I never know what will happen next, but do know that this firm does more IPOs than any other law firm in the US.

Plus, with visits from the like of Peter Mandelson (the British Minister of Trade, whom the firm took out to lunch at his request), WSGR and everyone in it begins to experience delusions of grandeur. Maybe, just maybe, that wild idea that just walked in the door could be the next Yahoo . ..

[This was a more prescient observation than I knew at Christmas 1999: one of the companies that walked in WSGR’s front door in 1998 was called Google!!]

A birthday party at home in September 1999. I think that we belatedly celebrated Daphné’s and Nick’s birthdays together. As they were always in the middle of complicated summer plans, it was easier to fit in the family party a bit later in the year.

Yes, I resisted material ambition for longer than many of my generation (that’s the generation that sang “hope I die before I get old” and meant it, almost, in a way), but that’s one of the unanticipated consequences of six kids. Maybe they’ll want to go to College. And even if they don’t, they all want wetsuits and surfboards, not to speak of their own room. And each Sunday night, we watch a video together, and tonight it’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Our life is like a Spielberg film: boom boom boom, and go go go.

So all the best from all of us to you and all of yours, and please keep in touch.

Here are the other diary pages: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009