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We liked to lots of things, many of which appear on other pages: music, swimming, soccer, diving, surfing, homework, more soccer, trains, funfairs, screens, mountain biking, skiing, cars, stamping, photo albums, more soccer, to mention but a few. Not all of us liked to do all of the things, but some we did have in common.

Outside grandma’s house in Marlow, Marian House, in autumn 1996, with the Ford Aerostar in the driveway. We brought all the bikes over from France a couple of times. Maman took this picture before we bicycled down into  the town center, following the route I biked to school as a teenager, and along the Thames.

Soccer was our number one hobby over the years. Although Daphné lost interest after only one year, everyone else kept at it for years and years, at home if not in competition.

Most of this page covers some of our hobbies that did not fill a page themselves.

Alban in a later incarnation of biking, mountain biking, one that only he pursued. The photo was taken at Laguna Seca in a competition in 2004, the Sea Otter Classic. Alban fell, but got back on and still finished honorably. In that race, that is. Unfortunately, he dropped the sport not long after.

Alban in a later incarnation of biking, mountain biking, one that only he pursued. The photo was taken at Laguna Seca in a competition in 2004, the Sea Otter Classic. Alban fell, but got back on and still finished honorably. In that race, that is. Unfortunately, he dropped the sport not long after.

We spent a fair bit of time bike riding, early in the blending of the family, that is. Most of the time that meant biking on the paved paths in the Forét de Rambouillet, the rambling former royal hunting forest that surrounded our first homes together, Le Tahu and La Bellanderie.

A few times we brought the bikes with us, to La Grée or even England. The Ford Aerostar which I had imported from California could carry the six bikes (on the roof and on a rear rack) and all our luggage!

Before leaving France, the childrens’ sporting activity was principally judo. All four of the older children joined the local club at one time or another. Nick during a competiton at Gif-sur-Yvette in May 1995.

On the way home from one trip to the UK, driving along the M25, the motorway ring road around London, at 70mph, one of the three bikes on the roof flew off into four lanes of freeway. Ian recovered it with the help of a couple of friendly lorry drivers who stopped traffic with their trucks so that he could cross two lanes of freeway and collect it. Repairs were necessary!

Nick is posing with David Lowenfeld, a good friend from our time outside Paris who also judoed.

Marian House looks completely different now. We sold it to Andrew Milsom, the agent handling the sale for us after mum died (no conflict of interest there, right Andrew!), and he and his wife redid everything, bringing it up to date and considerably enhancing its value. There’s a picture of Andrew outside his principal office here.

Biking itself is different now too. Nick and Daphné began driving in 2003 and 2004 respectively, and Alban in 2007. By that year, the family no longer biked together. That felt bad. It’s the way it is, of course, perfectly normal, but still. Those were fun times.

One of the benefits of gardening. The hummingbirds love the abutilons, and give us a show whenever they flower.

Gardening is at times more of a duty than a hobby, especially when you live in a forest which invades and overpowers with alacrity most of what you try to cultivate. Clearing the driveway of leaves and dirt after each day of rain takes hours, and it’s not fun work. It’s a grind.

The entire property needs to be cleaned up and trimmed a couple of times a year, and that takes even longer. Cutting the lawn at mum and dad’s when I was a teenager had nothing on trying to trim a forest! There’s not a lot of energy left after all that maintenance for beautifying.

More flowers, this time of the more rugged variety that can withstand deer as well as the near desert conditions in Santa Cruz for most of the year.

But we do make an effort, and by “we” here we mean Marie-Hélène!

On the left is the one small cultivated garden that she had built in late 2003 and maintained in the midst of our forest. I was away working in Newport Beach at the time: Marie-Hélène had it built on the dirt next to the driveway, where the boys used to play soccer together. They were not entirely happy about this initiative.

It was one of those parental moves that they never forgave or forgot, even when I tried to have an alternative soccer “field” built for them. They complained that it was too far from the house, and had too many rocks and was not the same. So they never used it!

Note that the hair points up, indicating that Charlie was on his speedy way down at this point!

But of course the weeds grow easily somehow, and seem to have several growing cycles each year! Marie-Hélène and I were constantly on our knees pulling out weeds.

It was all worth it. Every springtime, we had our own little flower show across from the front door, between us and the forest.

That has always been a hobby of mine, incidentally, my work. Which is a good thing! Many of my law school classmates, and many colleagues from the first law firms where I worked, couldn’t wait to get out of the law. Not me!

The acrobat is Alban. He always made it look easy.

I always found the work itself to be a challenge: only the excessive hours which characterized most of my career were a problem. What I did changed day by day and evolved over time in ways which couldn’t be predicted and never allowed me to feel too comfortable.

There are rote days, of course, periods of repetition and boredom: no getting away from that. But negotiating is rarely dull, and is one of those few occasions when assholes can make life interesting! When there’s one on the other side, you have to work harder, sometimes sneakier, always smarter. What’s not to like! 

The most successful toy we ever bought is the trampoline. We replaced the skirt around the edge twice, and the springs once. It went on and on, year after year. It’s still there, two years after I moved out, perhaps 15 years after we bought it. and it is still used regularly.

We briefly had a ping-pong table in 2002-3. It was left outside because there was no room in the house or garage. It still needed to be folded up when not in use, and was knocked down and broken too soon. Outdoors and folded up, it acted like a kite in the wind.

The boys just love it, and use it again and again and again. It sits below a retaining wall, where the prior owners of our home had a small swimming pool before the 1989 earthquake. At least we think that was what closed the pool. It’s hard to say.

The key consequence of the position of the wall is that the boys could jump from it onto the trampoline, adding to the thrill.

For them, it added to the thrill. For us, until we adjusted to the sight and learned that they were not going to catapult off the other side, it was a different kind of thrill!

Nick showing his style, at the other end from Dave!

Table tennis is a more occasional hobby, occasional because we never seem to be able to hang on to a ping pong table for very long before it gets broken. We bought one at La Bellanderie, but even in that enormous home could not fit it indoors. Then Tison broke it during the protracted course of our move to Santa Cruz.

These shots were both of Nick and Dave playing ping-pong in early 2003 (before the garden was planted) in front of the house. Dave was a good friend of the family: his son Alex was a good friend of Charlie’s at school, until their family moved away. Another photo of Dave is here.