Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
- John's Journal / Blog
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Main Index (text only)
- John's Travel
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Lunch in Portsmouth
Vera's Birthday Dinner
No Building Work Today
Second Day of Building Works
Monmouth to London
Chepstow to Monmouth on the Offa's Dyke Path
Champagne Lighthouse Bar
The Blackfriar, The Seven Stars and Murger Han
Pie and Mash
South Downs Way
Middle Temple Champagne Bar
Picnic in Regents Park
Chie and Erika off to Japan
Camber Sands and Rye
And Far Away
Temple of Seitan
Kentish Town Station
Late Turkish Dinner
Hutong in the Shard
Bubbles and Cricket
The Vegetarian Butcher
Blu Tack, Murger Han and Crick Institute
Courtauld, Middle Temple and The Thames
Dinner in the Garden
Back to London
Sunday in Devon
Beer Engine and New House
The Old Inns of England
Alexandra Palace and Go Ape
Large Padron Collider
Oliveto and Science Evening
Playgrounds and Party
Fizzy Cola Bottles
Berkhamstead and Frithsden Vineyard
Lunch at the River Cottage then a Long Boring Drive Back Home
Lyme Regis and Charmouth
London to Shute
Erika in a Party Hat
Laksa, Sort Of
Potters Bar to Radlett
- Lunch in Portsmouth
- [Saturday 11th August 2018]
Wander around Portsmouth in the morning, then lunch with Vera and co before I headed back to London.
- Vera's Birthday Dinner
- [Friday 10th August 2018]
Got the train down to Portsmouth to join Vera and family for her birthday dinner.
- No Building Work Today
- [Thursday 9th August 2018]
Builders failed to show up today. Instead, here's some picture of the grapes in my garden.
- Second Day of Building Works
- [Wednesday 8th August 2018]
Not particularly good progress today!
- Sound Proofing
- [Tuesday 7th August 2018]
Builders came to start work on soundproofing Erika's room today. Consequently the flat was in a state of chaos.
- Moving Stuff
- [Monday 6th August 2018]
Started moving things out of Erika's room into the lounge ahead of the building work we'd be starting tomorrow.
- Monmouth to London
- [Sunday 5th August 2018]
Hung around in Monmouth in the morning until the first bus left for Newport, and then got the train back to London from there.
- Chepstow to Monmouth on the Offa's Dyke Path
- [Saturday 4th August 2018]
It wasn't as early a start as I'd hoped for. It was already gone midnight by the time I had got home from Folkestone the previous evening, I'd set the alarm clock for some ungodly hour of the morning, and then proceeded to lay awake in bed, for at least an hour, thinking "I've got to wake up in 6 hours... 5 and a half hours... 5 hours". In the end the only way I could get to sleep was to turn the alarm off, and just accept that I'd wake up whenever I woke up. So it was that I got the 10:45 train out of Paddington bound for Newport, where I would then change to largely double back on myself and head to Chepstow.
In the rush to get to the station and get on the train as quickly as possible I hadn't really eaten anything, so on arrival at Chepstow I availed myself of the "Firstclass cafe" - a delightful little greasy spoon attached to the station - and had a vegetarian sausage and hash brown bap. Possibly I should have indulged in something a bit more substantial given that I had nearly 6 hours of solid walking until my next meal, but I was eager to get going as quickly as possible, and also didn't want to feel bloated. It seemed to be OK in the end.
I had one more quick stop off to make in Chepstow to pick up a paper Ordnance Survey map covering the route. Although I had the OS maps app on my phone it's always good to have a fallback. As it happens the bookshop where I got it was the one Vera used to live above many years ago, and this became a sort of theme of the expedition - I passed very close by to three of Vera's former residences during the course of my walk today, and a few more on the bus back to Newport the next day, given that it went by way of Raglan and Usk.
So it was about 1:45 by the time I was heading out of Chepstow, crossing the bridge over the river Wye - waterway I'd be seeing a lot of today - and joining the Offa's Dyke path.
The first half an hour was through fields and modest hills, but after that it takes a sudden turn for the dramatic, when the river I was crossing over on the bridge a little earlier was now quite far beneath my feat, at Wintour's Leap. It was nice to be treated to one of the more notable scenic views so soon into the walk, albeit that the river is a decidedly muddy brown here, and not perhaps at its most picturesque.
The path then heads away from the Wye for a while, compensated for slightly by at times having far reaching views to the East, across the river Severn instead.
Once I got to the Tidenham Section of the Dyke, a little over an hour outside of Chepstow, I felt I was into somewhat familiar terrain. The part of Offa's Dyke I've been on most is the section up above Redbrook - to the South - which we'd several times been on with Dad to do a mile or two and then back again. That type of ancient woodland atop the ridge seems to occur in a few bursts along the strecth between Chepstow and Monmouth, and this was the first I encountered today.
The downside, of course, of the ancient woodland on the hilltop is that it means for much of the walk there are no views. The tree cover does occasionally break though, and when it does it's very dramatic - and perhaps the most famous view being the Devil's Pulpit. This I reached at around 3:30 and it was rather spectacular. Although it was, of course, one of the few points on the walk when my otherwise largely uninterrupted solitude was, well, interrupted. There were as many as six (6!) other people there. So I didn't linger quite as long as I might have had I had the place all to myself, but I did take a few photos and I think they came out reasonably well.
The Wye Valley is famously the place for which Gilpin first coined the term "picturesque", and although I'm unsure whether it was specifically this view from the Devil's Pulpit which was the spark of inspiration it's tempting to imagine that it might be. The rocky promontory from which the devil would supposedly deliver sermons to the monks below is a natural viewpoint, and the sweeping landscape forged out by the Wye, with the ruins of Tintern Abbey among it, framed by the trees, does look so perfect as to be tempted to imagine it was all planned that way.
With just the slightest twinge of envy toward the people enjoying a carefree afternoon having a picnic while enjoying that view (presumably having parked somewhere close by, and therefore being unconcerned at the though of any long trek ahead of them) I purposefully marched on, conscious of the fact I was probably only about a third of the way from Chepstow to the Boat Inn, and if I wanted to be there in time for dinner I couldn't be lingering anywhere for too long. I did seem to have really got into my stride at this point, and felt I was really bounding along.
Around 4pm, just before Brockweir I emerged from the woods, was treated to wide open views of rolling hills, before then being faced with a decision at the fork in the path. Here there are two possible routes which meet again at Bigsweir Bridge. One follows the banks of the river whereas the other follows more closer the route of the dyke itself, and stays higher up. It looked as though the higher route is a bit more direct, as the river goes on a bit of a meander. I also thought it would be a more authentic experience following the dyke more closely, so I chose the higher route.
This turned out to actually be a largely unrewarding slog, and I wish I'd studied the contour lines a bit more closely. A large part of it seemed to be in a recessed path going seemingly endlessly uphill, without any views to speak of. Some combination of the heat and the sense of it being rather unrelenting made this perhaps my least favourite section of the walk today, and in hindsight I wish I'd gone along the river. Things did improve a bit as I started to approach Bigsweir Bridge, there was an atmospheric downhill section through a bit of woodland strewn with moss covered boulders. Beyond that, once I emerged from the woods, there was open scenery once more, and very nice views down to the river and Bigsweir Bridge. I recall feeling rather elated at that point.
Bigsweir Bridge was a comfortingly familiar sight, a notable feature on any drive along this section of the Wye Valley, and although I was aware I'd have a hill to climb again the other side I felt reinvigorated once more by passing this landmark.
It was now about 5:30, and I had a further hour and a half to go to Redbrook, so I felt somewhat onto the home straight. Yet more ancient hilltop woodlands to proceed through and I have to admit my thoughts at this point were focusing less on the venerable trees and archaic earthworks but more about what I was going to order when I got to the pub.
The final section of ancient woodland was Highbury Wood - the one I was familiar with from walks with Dad when Vera was living in Redbrook, almost 30 years ago now. It felt slightly strange in the early evening, the trees are quite dense here and the light was a little dim already. It was actually a bit sad to be here by myself, a place I would have always previously been for walks with Dad (and probably a reluctant Adrian too). Funny how the exact same landscape can evoke such different moods at different times - I always remember that section of Offa's Dyke feeling quite magical and mysterious, and yet now it had taken on a rather melancholy and almost slightly eerie tone.
My spirits lifted when I emerged from the woods, and down below me saw the Wye, and the old railway bridge which forms the crossing over to the Boat Inn. It's a rather majestic view. My legs were starting to get a bit tired by this point, so the fairly steep descent into Redbrook was a bit of a stumble in places, but I made it to the edge of the village by 7, and a few minutes later I was crossing over the old railway bridge, with the Boat Inn the other side, and feeling rather triumphant.
Although similarly to Highbury Wood I found myself alone at a place I had so often visited with family, there was no ambiguity to the nostalgia here, and I was just straightforwardly delighted to be there. Perhaps it's just down to the conviviality of pubs, or the knowledge that I'd almost certainly be coming back here again with family in the future - Erika has been once and I look forward to bringing her again.
Having been walking for nearly 6 hours, and at least 15 miles to get here I had originally hoped to have a longer and more leisurely stay. However I was conscious I still had to get to Monmouth where my hotel was, and my original hope that I might be able to get a taxi for that last bit seemed a bit far fetched now, especially as I didn't have any signal on my mobile. So, after a Pan Hagarty and some cider, and barely an hour's rest at the Boat, I was setting off again, to follow the Wye Valley Path from here into Monmouth.
Thankfully my feet weren't too sore - on my walk on the South Downs Way last Saturday by the 15 mile point I was really hobbling - but either because the ground was softer or my feet had just toughened up, this time I was past 15 miles and still thought I could do a few more. Especially as the Wye Valley Path mostly followed the river bank for this stretch and was therefore mercifully flat. The sun was starting to set so I kept the pace off, not wanting to run out of light altogether!
I was quite pleased with myself when I found a shortcut, not really marked on the OS map as a proper footpath, over another old bridge and through a field, the other side of which delivered me almost directly into my hotel. The Premier Inn had been the only thing I could find available (perhaps because I left it until the last minute and only booked it on the train on the way down this morning), so I knew I didn't exactly have a night in the lap of luxury ahead of me, but it was good enough.
- Champagne Lighthouse Bar
- [Friday 3rd August 2018]
Got the train down to Folkestone after work to spend the evening at the Lighthouse Champagne Bar in Folkestone.
- [Thursday 2nd August 2018]
Found a place in London which does farinata, near Ladrbroke Grove, so headed there this evening.
- The Blackfriar, The Seven Stars and Murger Han
- [Wednesday 1st August 2018]
Went for a drink with Andrew at The Blackfriar after work, then a quick visit to the Seven Stars, with a late dinner at Murger Han on the way home.
- India Club
- [Tuesday 31st July 2018]
Dinner at The India Club on the Strand.
- Pie and Mash
- [Monday 30th July 2018]
Pie and mash from Young Vegans for dinner.
- Leong's Legend
- [Sunday 29th July 2018]
Late lunch at Leong's Legend in Chinatown.
- Breaky Bottom
- [Saturday 28th July 2018]
Started an otherwise splendid day with a very disappointing breakfast at my hotel, which I'd come to the conclusion was overall really quite naff. The coffee in particular - for which they charged extra - was an abomination - and I should have known better when I asked for a macchiato and the girl taking my order, who, it later transpired, would also be making it, said "somebody told me what that was once".
I checked out of my hotel as quickly as I could after breakfast, and went and sought alternative sustenance elsewhere in Lewes. Thankfully there was a hipster coffee shop wherein I not only had a coffee which was worlds apart, but I could also enjoy blowing off steam with the barista about the prior terrible experience.
After that a bit of shopping, bought some blister plasters and an emergency jacket. It had been far too hot to wear a jacket on my walk yesterday, and it had seemed silly to carry one the whole way, but I was feeling a bit under dressed and it had cooled a bit off today, so I went to Paul Clark, wherein better still they had a sale on, and picked up pretty much the only thing they had in my size, at a bargain price.
I met the rest of today's group at Lewes station - I'd invited a lot of people along, and it seemed hardly anybody could make it which was a bit frustrating as I knew it was going to be a very nice day out. So in the end it was me, Andrew, and four of Andrew's friends with their respective offspring - one couple I'd met before a few times, the other I think I'd only met once before. It seemed they all had an interest in wine though, so I was in good company.
We got the train together to Southease, and from there walked to the slightly surprisingly named Abergavenny Arms (we're a long way from Abergavenny!) in Rodmell for lunch. We somehow managed to stray off the South Downs Way on the way there, and walked along a busy road for a section, which wasn't much fun. Lunch was decent enough, and although the pub was not perhaps the most achingly quaint of country pubs it met our needs adequately enough.
After lunch we walked from there to the main highlight of the day - Breaky Bottom vineyard - which was a much more pleasant stroll - initially up a quiet country lane, and then through undulating fields strewn with hay bales, with views beyond to the rolling hills of the South Downs. The ground was parched almost to the point of golden from the recent heatwave, and added to the silvery blue skies and the chalky white tracks it made for a serene and almost surreal landscape. There was quite a strong, dry summer breeze before we descended into Breaky Bottom's sheltered little valley. Very atmospheric. The vineyard is in quite a hidden spot, and only really comes into view once you've almost arrived, so it's a wonderful surprise, and particularly among the parched yellow gold fields, now mostly bare of their crop, it has the feeling of an oasis in the middle of a desert.
One of our group said it felt as though we had suddenly been transported to France, and the stone farmhouse and winery buildings among the vines definitely gave that sense - perhaps somehow reflecting Peter's part French ancestry.
We knocked on the door on arrival, and after a short while Peter came out to greet us. We were all instantly charmed by this delightful and fascinating man, and spent the next three wonderful hours completely enthralled by him. We started with a short vineyard tour, and I was impressed by how wonderfully verdant and unblemished the leaves of the vines were, despite weeks of drought - and was also happy to see how heavily laden with fruit they were. Peter predicts a very good yield this year. We saw a row of Seyval Blanc, and a row of Chardonnay, but didn't see the Pinots - Peter seemed to be keen to get down to business and start the tasting!
The tasting was the most leisurely, sociable, and just downright delightful of any vineyard tasting I've ever done. We were sat for about two hours, and tasted four of Peter's wines during that time, so had a good long time to savour and discuss each one. Although we did compare tasting notes a bit, Peter was just as (or perhaps more) interested in telling us about the person each wine was named after. These were all fascinating and accomplished individuals, and all friends or family members (or family friends) of Peter's. The conversation constantly went off at tangents, and Peter had a charming habit of asking us to remind him how he got on to a particular tangent. We roamed over the English wine industry in general - many of the other famous winemakers are close friends (or in one or two cases quite the opposite) of Peter's, and also some of the trials and tribulations he has had to deal with in over 40 years of winemaking in this wonderful location.
Perhaps the first of the four wines we tried had a slightly muted reception, but from the second onwards it was hit after hit, for me the "Cuvee Koizumi Yakumo" (Seyval Blanc 2010) and the "Cuvee Gerard Hoffnung" (Chardonnay / Pinot Noir / Pinot Meunier 2009) being the stand-out favourites. By coincidence these were the two we had tasted on Tuesday in Regents Park in preparation for coming here, but of course being in situ at the vineyard and with the winemaker talking to us while we were tasting them made for a much heightened experience.
Sadly by around 5 o' clock it seemed there were other demands on Peter's time - he had some sort of plumbing issue to deal with, and feeling we had already taken up quite a large chunk of his day we suggested it was time for us to head off.
We said our goodbyes to Peter, and reluctantly left Breaky Bottom behind, walking back through that surreal landscape, slightly in a trance, as though half waking from a daydream. We decided to initially pause again at the Abergavenny Arms, and figure out how best for all of us to get back home from there. I was blissfully unconcerned by the passage of time, with Chie and Erika being in Japan, so had no pressure to get back home at any particular time, and hadn't really given much thought to train times etc. Some of the others of course had small kids with them, so it was a bit more of an issue. In the end we split up at this point, with one couple and their little boy staying at the pub for a quick bit of dinner, with the plan to try and get a taxi. The rest of us walked to Southease station, knowing we'd have quite a long wait for the next train, but I at least was quite unfazed by this. We found a nicer path for the return journey to Southease, and it actually made quite a pleasant early evening stroll. There was indeed quite a long wait for a train from Southease, but it came eventually, and from there it all went quite smoothly back to London.
- South Downs Way
- [Friday 27th July 2018]
I had been keen to do some walking while Chie and Erika were in Japan, and having initially considered Offa's Dyke, I was swayed instead instead in the direction of the South Downs for the twin advantages of being quicker to get to from London and also the possibility of including a vineyard tour while in the area! So after some thought about the specifics, I decided to start at one end of the South Downs Way - Eastbourne - and walk as far as Southease / Lewes today, which would then put me in an ideal location for visiting Breaky Bottom vineyard tomorrow.
So I woke up early, packed my new backpack (chosen for better ventilation around the back, given the hot weather) and got the tube down to Victoria in time for the 08:16 train to Eastbourne. This got me to Eastbourne a bit before 10, and with a couple of stops for a late breakfast and to buy a large bottle of water I began to head out of town to start my walk on the South Downs Way.
I had been quite apprehensive about the weather - it was already really quite hot even at 10 in the morning, and of course the South Downs Way being mostly along ridges and hilltops is not exactly well known for its shade. The first climb out of Eastbourne was definitely a bit of a challenge, and by the time I had joined the South Downs Way proper I was already starting to wonder if this was a good idea!
However once I'd got to the top of that first hill, and the path levelled off a bit, with the addition of a light breeze and I suppose just generally having got into my stride, I started to find it a bit more manageable. I'd been very sensible, was wearing a hat, and applied plenty of suncream, and even went as far as to remove my cufflinks and roll up my sleeves.
By around 11:30 I arrived in Jevington, first of the two villages I'd be passing through on today's walk. I considered having a brief stop here, but decided it might be better to just power on through. I took a couple of photos including the place where banoffee pie was invented. Something I couldn't get particularly excited about as I don't really like banoffee pie.
One thing that did occur to me at Jevington was that, reassuring though it was to have these brief glimpses of civilisation, it did mean the path would be descending into a valley and then ascending again. The climb out of Jevington was another bit of a slog in this heat, and by the time I got to the top again I was starting to feel ever so slightly delirious (in a silly sort of way), and, as midday struck, took to singing Mad Dogs and Englishmen, which felt quite appropriate in the circumstances.
There was hardly anyone else around at this point, and somewhere around the top of Windover Hill (or possibly just before) I was treated to really spectacular scenery, and any earlier doubts about whether or not this adventure had been a good idea in this heat sank away. To the south I could see all the way to the sea, and the white horse on a hill above the Cuckmere river, between where I stood and Seaford. The grass was parched and golden as a result of the recent heatwave, in contrast to the dark greens of the wooded patches on the surrounding hills. Perhaps the main thing was that there were so few signs of civilisation in view - the nearby towns and villages were all down in the valleys or clustered along the coast - all hidden by hills from this vantage point. Before coming on this trip I'd been slightly sceptical about how wild the South Downs would feel, being in South East England, and only an hour or so away by train from London... but here I was with barely a house in sight, the signs of civilisation having mercifully fallen between the cracks. I think this was probably the nicest section of the walk - I'd acclimatised to the heat, got into my stride, wasn't yet suffering from blisters and the scenery was spectacular - I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
Sadly I managed to miss The Long Man, near the summit of Windover Hill - my mind was just on other things at that point I suppose. Beyond the summit of Windover Hill I started a long slow descent towards Alfriston, and was grateful for having done the walk in this direction, so that entirely exposed section of the path, with the slightly unforgiving chalk underfoot, in this sweltering heat, was downhill for me rather than up. There was at least a short section near the bottom in the shade, which was much appreciated.
At just after 1 o' clock - perfectly timed for a lunchbreak - I arrived in Alfriston, a delightfully quaint little village, with a very generous selection of pubs for what seemed to be such a small settlement - presumably largely sustained by walkers and other visitors. I'd already researched the luncheon options a bit prior to the trip, and had already written one pub off for being a bit too gastro. I inspected the menu at one of the two remaining options but nothing really appealed, so I plumped for the third and final pub, Ye Olde Smuggler's Inne, which I'm confident was the right choice for me. It was nice and quiet in there, I received a warm welcome from the landlord, and the beer selection looked good, although in the interests of hydration I opted for a shandy. The food was decent and homecooked, and provided sustenance without leaving me feeling bloated, ideal for continuing on my walk afterwards.
I also had an ice cream while in the village, and wasted a bit of time trying to find a recycling bin for an empty water bottle before eventually just giving up and stuffing it back in my bag, and then set about finding where the South Downs Way continued from Alfriston.
There was of course now a bit of a climb to deal with again, which was, again, a bit wearing in this heat, but I did start to get an impression of a slight change in the air, and was aware that rain was forecast for later on, so it was perhaps starting to cool off a bit. Once back up on the top of the next ridge I was in my element again, and between there and Firle Beacon was another very pleasant stretch, with more sprawling views far into the distance. I stopped for a short break at the trig point at Firle Beacon to take in the panorama - I could see for miles in every direction.
I think that was probably the final high point of the walk not just in altitude but in terms of my enjoyment, and after that it did start to turn into a bit of a trudge. This was about the 12 mile point, and I can't remember the last time I'd done that many miles in one day, especially given the at times quite rocky and unforgiving paths along the South Downs Way. I wasn't particularly physically tired, but my feet were definitely getting quite sore, and overall the joie de vivre was starting to ebb a tad.
From here on the sky also started to darken quite noticeably, and just after 4 I heard a rumble of thunder, followed not long after by a sudden downpour. I was very glad to have brought along a waterproof coat and to have a rain cover for my backpack. I suppose to begin with the rain was actually quite refreshing, but my trousers, not really designed for walking, quickly got completely soaked through, and that was a bit yucky. This, added to the fact my feet were starting to hurt quite a bit by now, and the added challenge that I had quite a steep hill to descend towards the end (which seems to be harder on the feet) meant I was very glad when I reached Southease station, especially as by chance it seemed I wouldn't have long to wait for the next train to Lewes. I'd originally contemplated the idea of walking from Southease to Lewes, but I was now at about 15 miles and hobbling a bit, and this just seemed like a good point to stop. Besides, the walk from Southease to Lewes wouldn't be on the South Downs Way!
I arrived in Lewes about 5:15 and limped from there to my hotel - Pelham House - thankfully just a few minutes walk from the station. Although the exterior of the hotel was quite grand and impressive, the welcome at the check-in desk was somewhat lacking (I think given my exertions in getting there today a little congratulation, even if feigned, would not have gone amiss), and my room was a bit of a disappointment - tiny and very bland. Still, it would meet my immediate needs, which were to have a shower and sit for a short while to contemplate what to do for dinner.
I rather fancied a pizza, and used Google Maps to find the one acceptable looking pizza place in Lewes, only to then hobble over there and discover it was closed for the evening, because their chimney needed sweeping (quite a unique reason for an unplanned restaurant closure I thought!) - a pitfall of having a wood fired pizza oven I suppose. Instead, biased not a little by proximity and the desire to minimise hobbling, I went to an Indian restaurant which was actually better than expected for a provincial town. Was pleased to see a masala dosa on the menu.
After dinner I was quite tired out, having got up not long after 6am, and done the longest walk I'd done for probably decades. I did consider just going back to my hotel and having a (very) early night, but even with the long wait between my starter and main course at the Indian restaurant I was all done before 7:30, and it was hard to tell when I might next be in Lewes, a town I knew I was going to like, it being among other things the location of the headquarters of the Chap Magazine.
So I thought I'd just poke my nose in at the Lewes Arms, a pub, similar to the town itself, I just knew I was going to like. Sure enough it was delightful, and as a wonderful added surprise there was going to be morris dancing this evening. So I stayed a while, somehow miraculously managed to stand outside to watch the morris dancing, and watched the local morris side (Blackpowder morris) interspersed with guests from Brighton (Cuckoo's Nest). It was a delightful end to the day.
- Middle Temple Champagne Bar
- [Thursday 26th July 2018]
An evening out in the very pleasant surrounds of Middle Temple Champagne Bar.
- Workman's Cafe
- [Wednesday 25th July 2018]
Went for a fryup for breakfast at the Workman's Cafe near Archway.
- Picnic in Regents Park
- [Tuesday 24th July 2018]
Tried the Plant Burger at Honest Burgers for lunch. Then in the evening went for a picnic in Regents park with Al and Andrew to taste a couple of wines from Breaky Bottom ahead of our visit to the vineyard this weekend.
- Chie and Erika off to Japan
- [Monday 23rd July 2018]
Waved Chie and Erika off to Japan in the morning.
- Camber Sands and Rye
- [Saturday 21st July 2018]
Took Erika down to Camber Sands for the day as she wanted to look for "crystals" - also did some digging in the sand while we were there, and on the way back stopped off in Rye briefly for a quick visit to the Mermaid Inn.
- And Far Away
- [Friday 20th July 2018]
Started reading And Far Away by Garry Hogg, a book about walking from the 1940s which Dad had sent me.
- Temple of Seitan
- [Thursday 19th July 2018]
Lunch at Temple of Seitan.
- Palestinian Cafe
- [Tuesday 17th July 2018]
Tried out our local Palestinian cafe for lunch.
- [Monday 16th July 2018]
Went to a local friend's house for a barbecue.
- [Sunday 15th July 2018]
Erika met up with a couple of her friends at the playground in the afternoon.
- Chap Olympiad
- [Saturday 14th July 2018]
Erika came along for the afternoon for this year's Chap Olympiad, and later on I was also joined by Ricardo.
- [Friday 13th July 2018]
Inspecting the grapes in my "vineyard" again.
- Kentish Town Station
- [Thursday 12th July 2018]
Picture of the garden on the platform of Kentish Town in the morning on the way to the office.
- [Wednesday 11th July 2018]
Took a picture of my Vic Reeves plate to send to friends as it came up in conversation.
- [Tuesday 10th July 2018]
Just one random picture of an interesting sky this evening.
- [Monday 9th July 2018]
Discovered lots of bunches of grapes in the garden now! As many as 12 perhaps?
- [Sunday 8th July 2018]
Took Erika to the beach at Folkestone for the day.
- [Saturday 7th July 2018]
Erika wore her yukata for a Japanese festival in West London.
- Late Turkish Dinner
- [Friday 6th July 2018]
Somehow missed dinner earlier so had a very late meal at the local Turkish restaurant.
- [Thursday 5th July 2018]
Two bottles of Breaky Bottom arrived, and inspected the grapes / olives in the garden.
- Sports Day
- [Tuesday 3rd July 2018]
Erika's school sports day.
- Hutong in the Shard
- [Sunday 1st July 2018]
Went for an early lunch at Hutong in the Shard, then later on drinks in Andrew's back garden.
- School Festival
- [Saturday 30th June 2018]
Did a stint at the bar at Erika's school festival.
- Bubbles and Cricket
- [Friday 29th June 2018]
Out in the garden blowing bubbles and spotted a weird insect (apparently just a "baby" cricket) on the grapevine.
- Southampton Arms
- [Thursday 28th June 2018]
Met Andrew for a drink at the Southampton Arms.
- [Wednesday 27th June 2018]
- The Vegetarian Butcher
- [Tuesday 26th June 2018]
Tried the Vegetarian Butcher's "no chicken chunks" for the first time for lunch today.
- Recycling Centre
- [Sunday 24th June 2018]
Finally got round to hiring a car to take our hedge trimmings to the local recycling centre - Erika came along for the ride and it made for a bizarre but surprisingly nice father-daughter moment. Afterwards a quick lunch at the Pineapple, then we headed down to near Clapham Junction for a barbecue at Chie's friend's house, before I finally rounded off the day with a quick visit to Frank's in Peckham.
- Blu Tack, Murger Han and Crick Institute
- [Saturday 23rd June 2018]
Took Erika to buy Blu Tack in the morning (!), followed by an inspection of the garden, then lunch at Murger Han, and then a visit to the open day at the Crick Institute.
- Courtauld, Middle Temple and The Thames
- [Friday 22nd June 2018]
Went to visit the Courtauld Gallery at lunchtime with Jeremy, then later on met up with Gemma (who was visiting from the US again) and the usual suspects for a varied evening taking in the Middle Temple Champagne Bar, the Thames Clipper, the O2 (yea not really a highlight) and finally the Angel in Bermondsey.
- [Thursday 21st June 2018]
Indonesian food for lunch from the street food market in Kings Cross.
- School Concert
- [Wednesday 20th June 2018]
Erika sang Tomorrow from Annie at her school concert.
- [Tuesday 19th June 2018]
Just one picture of the garden after work.
- [Sunday 17th June 2018]
Took Erika for lunch at Wahaca and a succession of playgrounds.
- [Saturday 16th June 2018]
Odd day out wherein I tried to get on as many ferries across London as possible. Only really managed two, plus the Thames Clipper, and not sure that counts.
- Dinner in the Garden
- [Friday 15th June 2018]
Dinner in the garden I think (or at least pre dinner snacks), a spot of sabrage, and more raspberry picking.
- Garden Bags
- [Thursday 14th June 2018]
Got some garden bags to dispose of the hedge trimmings and had dinner at Ceremony, the vegetarian restaurant near Tufnell Park.
- [Tuesday 12th June 2018]
Picked some raspberries in the garden then a late night drink at the Pineapple with Jeremy.
- Back to London
- [Monday 11th June 2018]
Headed back to London in the morning, just time for a few family photos before we went.
- Sunday in Devon
- [Sunday 10th June 2018]
Quite morning at Dad's soon to be ex-house, then Teignmouth for lunch.
- Beer Engine and New House
- [Saturday 9th June 2018]
Lunch at the Beer Engine then went to see Dad's new house in the afternoon.
- [Friday 8th June 2018]
Decided to have a barbecue as the weather was nice.
- The Old Inns of England
- [Thursday 7th June 2018]
Got a new (old) book today.
- Garden Table
- [Wednesday 6th June 2018]
New garden table and chair arrived today.
- Alexandra Palace and Go Ape
- [Monday 4th June 2018]
Erika had the day off school for a teacher training day today, so we went to Alexandra Palace, and Erika impressed us with her tree top antics at Go Ape.
- [Sunday 3rd June 2018]
Took Erika to the zoo.
- B12 Burger
- [Saturday 2nd June 2018]
Went to my local caff for a restorative fry-up, then went to John Lewis to buy a garden table and chairs, then went to some kind of hipster restaurant to try the new B12 vegan burger.
- [Friday 1st June 2018]
I had an afternoon / evening out with Cardo in and around Portobello.
- [Thursday 31st May 2018]
- [Wednesday 30th May 2018]
Erika was off school, it being half term, so we went to the Pineapple for lunch.
- Jim's BBQ
- [Monday 28th May 2018]
Barbecue at Jim's house in Suburbiton for his birthday.
- Hampstead Heath
- [Sunday 27th May 2018]
Walked across Hampstead Heath to Hampstead, had lunch at the Garden Gate pub, then got the train home. Spot of gardening in the afternoon when we got back.
- [Saturday 26th May 2018]
Took Erika to Franks, then visited Andrew's house.
- Large Padron Collider
- [Friday 25th May 2018]
Paella and padron peppers for dinner.
- Oliveto and Science Evening
- [Thursday 24th May 2018]
Lunch at Oliveto, and in the evening a science event at Erika's school.
- Murger Han
- [Wednesday 23rd May 2018]
Went to Murger Han again for lunch.
- [Tuesday 22nd May 2018]
Some pictures out in the garden.
- [Sunday 20th May 2018]
Went to Whitstable for Leon's Birthday, and failed any photos other than my train ticket.
- Playgrounds and Party
- [Saturday 19th May 2018]
Spent the day with Erika in a series of playgrounds and then at her friend's birthday party.
- Wine Tasting
- [Thursday 17th May 2018]
Held a Gevrey Chambertin wine tasting / dinner at home. Only managed to take one picture - of the aftermath.
- [Wednesday 16th May 2018]
Ingredients arrived ahead of the following evening's wine tasting / gourmet dinner.
- Andrew's Birthday
- [Tuesday 15th May 2018]
Down to Deptford in the evening for Andrew's birthday.
- Fizzy Cola Bottles
- [Monday 14th May 2018]
Just one random picture.
- [Sunday 13th May 2018]
Went for dim sum at our usual haunt with friends for lunch then pottered fairly aimlessly about for the remainder of the afternoon.
- Berkhamstead and Frithsden Vineyard
- [Saturday 12th May 2018]
Was granted some free time in the daytime today and decided to go for another of my walks. This time I decided to head to Berkhamstead - mainly because it wasn't too far from Euston station, an easy station to get to, and on the map the surrounding area looked quite green.
On most of these walks I've been glad to be able to get out of whatever town I start the walk in as quickly possible and get into something resembling countryside. Berkhamstead however was a pleasant surprise, not wholly unpleasant and and of itself, and my walk commenced with a nice stretch along the canal which runs through the centre of the town, lined for the most part with pretty gardens, and occasionally a moderately picturesque dwelling, plus the occasional canalside pub.
After leaving the canal I joined the Hertfordshire way, which to begin with followed a country lane. Although I'm usually less keen on walking along roads, this was actually one of the nicest stretches of the walk, when I suddenly experienced a wonderful feeling of isolation - apart from the odd passing car I had that delightful sense that there was nobody for miles around, such a welcome contrast to being so hemmed in on all sides in London. Recently on these walks those moments have been quite euphoric.
I then reached Potten End, where I'd considered stopping for lunch at one of two possible pubs there, but the first I could tell at a glance was far to gastropubby for me, and the second, much more of a local's pub feel, looked like it might be OK, but I decided instead to press on for Frithsden Vineyard.
This must be one of the closest vineyards to London, and quite possibly the closest to home, in North London, as most of them tend to be down South. It's on a very small scale, a sort of pet project of the owners who had a house with a bit of spare land, but nice nonetheless. I had timed it quite well by chance today as they were having an open day, and had a barbecue going. Alas they don't have any sparkling wine at the moment, so I tried their (still) white and rose, both of which were pleasant enough, but neither exactly my cup of tea. As it turned out the vineyard is actually for sale, but at £1.75 million with the attached house being modern and not particularly beguiling I don't think I'll be putting in an offer. Still, a nice spot and a nice feature of my day out.
From there I broadly headed back in the direction of Berkhamstead again, albeit this time a different route, initially through a very pleasant little bit of woodland, where I enjoyed possibly the last of the bluebells of the season, and then across the golf course and finally through meadows filled with buttercups and back into Berkhamstead. Caught a bit of rain en route, but felt blissfully unconcerned.
- The Angel
- [Wednesday 9th May 2018]
Went to the Angel to meet the usual suspects, and decided on a whim to try and photograph pretty much everything along my walk from Blackfriars station to there.
- Lunch at the River Cottage then a Long Boring Drive Back Home
- [Monday 7th May 2018]
Spent the morning exploring in and around the gatehouse before heading to Axminster for lunch at the River Cottage, then the long boring drive back to London.
- Lyme Regis and Charmouth
- [Sunday 6th May 2018]
Lunch in Lyme Regis then went to the beach for a Spot of fossil hunting in charmouth later in the afternoon. Later on dinner back at the gatehouse.
- London to Shute
- [Saturday 5th May 2018]
As always seems to be the case whenever we decide to drive anywhere it took far longer than we thought it would, but eventually by early evening we made it to Shute, and were met there by Dad and Janie. We then had a picnic dinner out on the lawn in front of the gatehouse.
- Chie's Birthday
- [Friday 4th May 2018]
Chie went to see a show in the evening. I stayed home to look after Erika, who insisted on going into the garden to look for woodlice.
- [Thursday 3rd May 2018]
Some shopping errands and a pub lunch in the centre of town. Out in the garden for a bit with Erika later on in the afternoon.
- Oxo Tower
- [Wednesday 2nd May 2018]
Impromptu night out at the Oxo Tower with some of the usual suspects.
- Erika in a Party Hat
- [Tuesday 1st May 2018]
Just one picture, of Erika in a party hat.
- [Monday 30th April 2018]
Erika with her new piano (which Chie got from a friend who is moving at the weekend).
- [Sunday 29th April 2018]
Chie was working today, so I took Erika to the zoo.
- [Saturday 28th April 2018]
Natalie from work happened to be in the neighbourhood in the afternoon, so we met up at the Southampton Arms, then she gave Erika a cycling lesson, then back home for some ESW and risotto.
- Ice Cream
- [Friday 27th April 2018]
Ice cream with Erika after school.
- Farewell Dinner
- [Thursday 26th April 2018]
Farewell dinner with Christian in East Finchley who was imminently moving to New York.
- New Sunglasses
- [Tuesday 24th April 2018]
New sunglasses arrived (primarily needed as I've been suffering with hayfever) and in the evening I built Lego with Erika.
- Laksa, Sort Of
- [Monday 23rd April 2018]
Made a sort of laksa for dinner.
- Bugs Party
- [Sunday 22nd April 2018]
Erika went to a friend's birthday party where she got to handle some bugs.
- Potters Bar to Radlett
- [Saturday 21st April 2018]
Walked a stretch of the Hertfordshire Way from Potters Bar to Radlett - if anything a bit too warm for walking today!
- More sun
- [Friday 20th April 2018]
Sunny again today, what a delight.
- [Thursday 19th April 2018]
Finally some bloody sunshine! Like probably everybody else in London we had a barbecue.