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.
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- 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
House Party and Archway Bridge
Party and The Selfish Giant
Fish and Chips
Bricket Wood to Radlett
Manze's and Borough Market
Kings Cross Champagne
Back to Civilisation
Sunday in Herefordshire
Saturday in Herefordshire
London to Clodock
Sunday Morning with Grandma and Garden Centre
After School Ice Cream
Freeze Dried Roast Potatoes
More Cherry Blossom
The Bridge Inn
Dawlish and Cockwood
London to Devon
First Signs of Spring
Dimsum and the Wallace Collection
Hina Matsuri and Rosie's Birthday
Snowy Start to March
Even More Snow
Walking the Dog
The Green Dragon
Espresso and Negroni
Sleepover and Murger Han
A Teleporter has to be Invented
To Swiss Cottage and Back
Boozy Friday Afternoon
Afternoon Tea / Playdate
New Umbrella and Winter Lights
- 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.
- [Tuesday 17th April 2018]
Opened the crates of GevCham which arrived yesterday.
- [Monday 16th April 2018]
Some GevCham arrived in the daytime. Played Marble Run with Erika in the evening.
- House Party and Archway Bridge
- [Sunday 15th April 2018]
Chie invited some of her friends round for a party at our place in the daytime. I ducked out for a bit in the afternoon for a walk, but didn't really have enough time to get out into the countryside so instead just walked up to Archway Bridge.
- Party and The Selfish Giant
- [Saturday 14th April 2018]
Erika had a birthday party to attend in the morning, then as soon as that was finished we whizzed her into the centre to watch a musical version of Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant.
- Fish and Chips
- [Friday 13th April 2018]
Fish and chips for dinner. Erika often has fish and chips for lunch at school on Fridays, so we rarely ever have it at home. As it was the Easter holidays for her still it seemed like a good opportunity!
- [Wednesday 11th April 2018]
Benoit was in town, went for a drink around St Pancras.
- Afternoon Off
- [Tuesday 10th April 2018]
As it was the Easter holidays I took the afternoon off to spend some time with Erika, and we went for dimsum for lunch.
- [Monday 9th April 2018]
Just one random picture of Chie and Erika in the evening.
- Bricket Wood to Radlett
- [Sunday 8th April 2018]
I went for a Sunday stroll in the rain.
- Manze's and Borough Market
- [Saturday 7th April 2018]
Recreated a day from around this time last year - pie and mash at M Manze for lunch, followed by a visit to Borough market to buy spatzle and morels, which formed tonight's dinner.
- Kings Cross Champagne
- [Friday 6th April 2018]
As the weather was pleasant, sat outside on the steps leading down to the canal at Kings Cross and had Champagne with the usual suspects.
- Cherry Blossom
- [Wednesday 4th April 2018]
Checking the state of the cherry blossom and the apple tree in the garden.
- Back to Civilisation
- [Monday 2nd April 2018]
Woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground in Clodock this morning, and sadly after one last breakfast had to pack up and leave the cottage. Drove over to Caerwent from there to visit Bec, Dave and Jessica. After that drove back to Bristol to drop off the car then got the train back to London.
- Sunday in Herefordshire
- [Sunday 1st April 2018]
Had the only good weather of the long weekend this morning, so made the most of it and did an Easter egg hunt followed by a walk in the surrounding countryside. Headed over to the Bell at Skenfrith for lunch with Vera, Robin, Robert and Louise, then had them all back to the cottage for tea afterwards. Final dinner at the cottage in the evening, followed by a final trip to the pub.
- Saturday in Herefordshire
- [Saturday 31st March 2018]
Breakfast at the cottage in Clodock, then went to have a look at the village shop in the next village up (Longtown), followed by lunch at the Carpenters Arms in Walterstone. Headed over to Abergavenny in the afternoon for tea with Vera and Louise, and to meet Louise's new dog Lily, about which Erika was very excited. Back to the cottage in the early evening, took Chie and Erika to see the Cornewall Arms before dinner, then baked potatoes for dinner at the cottage.
- London to Clodock
- [Friday 30th March 2018]
Got the train from London to Bristol in the morning. Had lunch in a yurt, then drove our hire car from there to Abergavenny, where we popped in to see Vera and Robin briefly, before stocking up on supplies at the Waitrose there and then driving to Clodock, where we'd be staying in a cottage the next three nights.
- Sunday Morning with Grandma and Garden Centre
- [Sunday 25th March 2018]
Spent the morning with Grandma (breakfast at a local cafe, food shopping in the local shops, then lunch at home) then waved Grandma off and Erika and I went to the garden centre.
- [Saturday 24th March 2018]
Went down to Guildford with Grandma Mary to visit Adrian, Liz and the kids.
- After School Ice Cream
- [Friday 23rd March 2018]
Took Erika for ice cream after school and met some of her friends from school in there.
- [Thursday 22nd March 2018]
Just one random picture of me giving Erika a piggy back at home.
- Indonesian Food
- [Wednesday 21st March 2018]
Went for Indonesian food with Chie at lunchtime.
- [Tuesday 20th March 2018]
Checking the buds on the cherry blossom and apple trees.
- Tap Shoes
- [Monday 19th March 2018]
Erika was given some tap dancing shoes by a friend.
- Freeze Dried Roast Potatoes
- [Sunday 18th March 2018]
I attempted to improve my roast potatoes, taking advantage of the snowy / icy weather to freeze dry them outside after the initial boiling. Only a marginal improvement.
- [Saturday 17th March 2018]
Erika had a friend from her first nursery come to visit Kentish Town for a playdate, starting with lunch at Wahaca.
- Birthday Cake
- [Friday 16th March 2018]
Had my birthday cake the day after my birthday.
- My Birthday
- [Thursday 15th March 2018]
Didn't want to make a particularly big deal of it this year after last year's effort, but it did seem like a good excuse to badger a few friends into going to Oliveto, my favourite restaurant. Fortunately they've recently started opening from 6pm (always used to be 7) so even though it was a school night it seemed just about workable to also include Erika in the proceedings.
After dinner we went to Olivogelo for dessert, then waved off Chie and Erika while the rest of us went for a post-dinner cocktail in the bar above Olivocarne (we were essentially doing a tour of Mauro Sanna's exmpire at this point), and then finally the three of us still remaining went for a final drink at the Duke of Wellington.
- [Wednesday 14th March 2018]
Held the inaugural session of the Pineapple Salon in the evening.
- More Cherry Blossom
- [Monday 12th March 2018]
More cherry blossom in the back garden today.
- The Bridge Inn
- [Sunday 11th March 2018]
Morning in Starcross, an early lunch at Grandad's house, then a quick visit to the Bridge Inn at Topsham on the way to Exeter before getting the train back to London.
- Dawlish and Cockwood
- [Saturday 10th March 2018]
Took the train to Dawlish, walked along the sea wall to Dawlish Warren, then went for a mini pub crawl in Cockwood.
- London to Devon
- [Friday 9th March 2018]
Got the train to Devon in the evening after work/school.
- First Signs of Spring
- [Thursday 8th March 2018]
First blossoms starting to come out on the little cherry blossom tree in our back garden.
- Piano Lesson
- [Monday 5th March 2018]
Erika had her first piano lesson today, and afterwards came home and did a bit of practice on my old piano keyboard (which I had been given for my birthday 15 years ago!).
- Dimsum and the Wallace Collection
- [Sunday 4th March 2018]
Went for dimsum at Joy King Lau then visited the Wallace Collection where they had some kid's activities.
- Hina Matsuri and Rosie's Birthday
- [Saturday 3rd March 2018]
Hina Matsuri (Girl's Day) in Japan so for lunch we had chirashi sushi with the Hina Matsuri dolls. In the evening we got a babysitter (!!!) and Chie and I went out for the evening to our friend's birthday party in Soho.
- [Friday 2nd March 2018]
Still snowy, so had fondue for dinner to warm us up.
- Snowy Start to March
- [Thursday 1st March 2018]
- Even More Snow
- [Wednesday 28th February 2018]
Really quite a lot of snow by today.
- More Snow
- [Tuesday 27th February 2018]
Quite a lot of snow today!
- [Monday 26th February 2018]
Started snowing a bit today!
- Walking the Dog
- [Sunday 25th February 2018]
Went to join our friends walking their dog on Hampstead Heath, which ended up partly retracing our steps from last Sunday morning.
- Turkish Food
- [Saturday 24th February 2018]
Went for Turkish food for lunch in Harringay (Haringey? I can never remember which is which), then visited friends for the remainder of the afternoon. In the evening I met up with Ricardo in Hampstead, then walked back home from there.
- Projector Disco
- [Friday 23rd February 2018]
Used the projector to make a disco in the lounge for Erika.
- Cocktail Cabinet
- [Wednesday 21st February 2018]
Went to Deptford to help Andrew move a cocktail cabinet.
- [Monday 19th February 2018]
A squirrel came into our back garden.
- Kenwood House
- [Sunday 18th February 2018]
Walked to Kenwood House, had lunch and looked around the interior.
- The Green Dragon
- [Saturday 17th February 2018]
I'd been given the daytime off from parenting as Chie and Erika were going to visit Japanese friends for the day, and so I decided to continue on my theme of weekend walks, ideally out in the country, time permitting, and ideally involving a pub. I'd been looking through CAMRA's inventory of historic pub interiors, focusing just on those "of national importance" within an hour's train journey of London, and so today settled on the Green Dragon at Flaunden.
This time was a bit too short notice to get any of my usual country pub going friends along, so was more of a solo expedition, but I didn't mind particularly - it takes the pressure off a bit actually - if the walk gets a bit long and boring or the pub ends up a bit underwhelming then there's nobody else to complain. Both of these criticisms would not have been entirely unfair if said of today's outing, as it turned out, but I was just happy to be out in the fresh air, with a little bit of a sense of adventure.
I started by getting the tube down to Euston, and from there the train to Hemel Hempstead. I was impressed by how a first class single was only about four quid more, and surprised based on that bargain price to have the first class compartment entirely to myself.
On arrival in Hemel Hempstead I changed into my walking boots - expecting quite severe mud (a prediction which turned out to be quite accurate) - and whilst the eccentric in me likes to doggedly wear brogues regardless of the setting there does come a point where the ability to consistently remain upright whilst proceeding at a reasonable pace seems quite desirable.
The first bit of the walk was possibly one of the nicest bits actually - Hemel Hempstead station is very considerately right at the edge of the town, so it only takes a few minutes before I got a sense of being in the countryside, following the Chilterns Way initially through woodland, past some quite attractive and surprisingly rustic looking dwellings, and then eventually out onto open fields. It was the open fields where the mud was particularly prevalent, and I have to admit after half an hour or so of open fields I was starting to get just ever so slightly bored of the terrain. It took about an hour and a half in total from Hemel Hempstead to Flaunden, and the timing worked quite well as I arrived at the Green Dragon just a few minutes before they opened at midday. Just enough time to change back into my brogues - partly out of consideration for the floor of the pub given how much mud my walking boots had attracted, but also of course because standards must be maintained.
I had planned to arrive early - partly just to make the most of the day so I could get back and spend a few hours with Chie and Erika later on - but also because I very much wanted to to bag a seat in the historic tap room - the sole reason for the pub's inclusion in CAMRA's inventory - and assumed all the locals would similarly pour in at midday with exactly the same thing in mind. I had perhaps slightly over estimated the demand, and was in fact the only customer in the pub for the entire duration of my visit. To that end, nice though the tap room was, I suspect I wasn't really seeing the pub in its best light, and it did feel ever so slightly sad in there in the absence of any other people. They weren't able to serve any food - "a problem with the chef" - and as I was actually quite hungry after my morning's walk I decided I should just have a quick pint and then head on to the backup pub I'd identified with exactly this sort of contingency in mind.
This middle leg of the day's walking, down the hill from Flaunden to Chenies, was a bit more varied and interesting than the latter part of the first leg. A welcome change from the seemingly endless open fields. There was a nice wooded section, and then a little bit along the river Chess, which was very pleasant. One final trudge across a field at the end of it brought me right into the back of the Red Lion.
The words "aukartic free house" on the exterior had perhaps set my expectations for something a bit more quirky and eccentric than the reality actually was. It was a fairly bland interior, and I decided instead to sit in the little courtyard at the side of the pub, which was pleasant enough. I had a sandwich and some chips for lunch, which was fine I suppose.
I decided after lunch to head back to London, as it turned out by this point the nearest station was Chorleywood - the birthplace of awful mass produced sliced bread, no less. This final leg of the walk was rather dull, mostly along a fairly main road, the sort where the verges either side are strewn with litter, presumably thrown out of moving cars. On arrival in Chorleywood I had a bit of time to kill before the next train so I took a quick look around the high street. It's not a very big place but has two independent bakers, which I found slightly ironic.
The train as it turned out was in fact the metropolitan line. It felt slightly surreal having walked 6 or 7 miles through the countryside to then tap in on an Oyster card reader.
- Espresso and Negroni
- [Friday 16th February 2018]
Worked from home, espresso in the afternoon, Negroni in the evening.
- Sleepover and Murger Han
- [Thursday 15th February 2018]
As it was half term Aiko and Mei had come to stay last night. For lunch I went for some Shaanxi Province food at Murger Han near Euston.
- [Wednesday 14th February 2018]
Lunch at the new Temple of Seitan branch in Camden (more like Kings Cross to me) then in the evening went for a drink with Benoit who was visiting from Paris.
- A Teleporter has to be Invented
- [Tuesday 13th February 2018]
A note Erika wrote.
- To Swiss Cottage and Back
- [Sunday 11th February 2018]
Walking seems to have become my new thing at the moment, since my trip to Herefordshire at the start of January. For some time now I've had a nagging concern that I really ought to do some kind of exercise, especially since moving from Pimlico, when my office was in Victoria, where at least I'd have a 30 minute round trip on foot to the office and back each day in the week, and on Saturday mornings we'd often take a leisurely stroll into the centre (by way of the Regency Cafe).
It's more like 45 minutes each way to the office now, and some parts of the route are frankly just a bit grim, so it isn't particularly enticing. Besides, for the past few months I've been working from home most of the time as I don't work with anyone who is based in London any more, and the office is in just about every possible way an inferior work environment to home.
So I am trying to at least get in longer walks at the weekends. For mental as much as physical health. I find a long walk a very effective way to clear my head and get a bit of time to myself during which I don't feel pressured to be doing something.
Ideally it would be a repeat of that transcendental stroll through the remote Herefordshire countryside on a crisp still morning with nobody else around, but the reality of living in fairly central London and not being regularly blessed with long periods of free time to get out of the city mean that I typically have to make do with either a very urban amble, or, the best compromise - a walk involving Hampstead Heath.
Today we were going to Swiss Cottage to visit Japanese friends of Chie's who had kids (who were therefore also friends of Erika's) for lunch. They'd been to our place around this time last year for lunch - when I took my first foray into sabrage and wanted to return the favour. As they lived near Swiss Cottage I decided to walk there and back. I did ask if Chie and Erika wanted to come with me but they didn't seem keen.
The most direct route suggested by Google Maps looked a tad dull so instead I diverted slightly to include the southern bit of the Heath. The route from home to the Heath has now become a very familiar one - I usually like to take in College Lane and Little Green Street. But then beyond the Heath the other side, into Belsize Park, took me back to what feels now almost like a past life - when I used to live there in 2000/2001. I walked past my old flat and got to reminiscing about those slightly strange days, approaching two decades ago now. There's that saying about youth being wasted on the young, and certainly Hampstead was wasted on me back then. I had no real appreciation for the finer things in life, no sense of what a desirable place that was to live other than when other people told me. I didn't really explore the surrounding area much when I was living there (as an example the Holly Bush is somewhere I only discovered when I moved back to London post 2007), spent most of my evenings when I was there cooped up indoors working on pet software projects, and often spent weekends back in Reading. What a waste!
Had a nice lunch with Chie's friends who were very hospitable, while Erika was kept entertained playing with their kids.
Then just after 4 I decided it was time to head home and did something like the same walk in reverse, albeit skipping Hampstead Heath on the way back. There was a nice symmetry to the photos I took on Little Green Lane and College Lane on the way back.
- Ice Skating
- [Saturday 10th February 2018]
Erika went ice skating, then we had dim sum.
- Boozy Friday Afternoon
- [Friday 9th February 2018]
Went for lunch with Ricardo, which turned into a boozy afternoon off work.
- [Thursday 8th February 2018]
Checked results of the other day's sabrage in the morning and then a late evening pint in the Pineapple with Jeremy.
- [Monday 5th February 2018]
Erika's friend came round for a playdate.
- Afternoon Tea / Playdate
- [Sunday 4th February 2018]
Our friends visiting from America came round for afternoon tea and a playdate.
- Harrow Inn
- [Saturday 3rd February 2018]
The run up to Christmas usually brings with it an increased interest in "quaint" pub outings from friends at work (well actually mainly just Andrew), which are then consistently a failure because either we ultimately deem the pubs not as quaint as we'd hoped they'd be or the rest of the group invited just doesn't really get what that whole expedition is about. The Christmas just gone provided one more in a long line of such failed outings, and the expectation for it to be a disappointment has now become part of the tradition.
Normally post Christmas interest in these kind of country pub jaunts then dries up from the others (again, just Andrew I suppose), and it's back to being something only I really seem to be keen on.
This year however interest in such pub outings continued on into the New Year, and with the added catalyst of our friend Gemma visiting from the US, and a general desire to make her regret her bad life choices (moving to the US) we thought a foray out into the green and pleasant land surrounding London to find some achingly nostalgic little corner of pub idyll would be just the ticket.
Possibly a further factor was that earlier in the week I'd been spending time uploading old photos which I'd never put on the web before including some of a visit to the Cherry Tree last millenium.
So I spent some time researching where to go and eventually found The Harrow Inn which satisfied all the requirements in terms of being convenient for everyone to get to, looking superbly unspoiled, and even not allowing kids inside (which had been the main failing of a previous Christmas pub outing - the incompatibility between family friendly country pubs and beered up potty mouthed Londoners). I then eventually remembered / discovered that this was a pub Dad had recommended to me years ago - I had made a map of a few of his recommendations, and the marker for the Harrow Inn came complete with notes from Dad:
"And one more... maybe the best for last... Steep near Petersfield... Harrow... something of the Cherry Tree character... used to serve beer straight from barrel."
So that was all very nicely book-ended.
I am pleased to report the Harrow Inn was, on our visit today, still spectacularly unspoiled, I imagine almost completely unchanged since Dad was last there (nearly 40 years ago?). It did indeed serve beer straight from the barrel, and did indeed have something of the Cherry Tree's character. The tiny "public bar" room was particularly special, although we only stayed there for our first drink, as I felt we might be intruding on the locals a bit, and I'm aware the volume of that particular coterie tends to get somewhat elevated after the first drink. Hard to put my finger on exactly why it was so special, maybe partly the proportions, maybe the big open fire and the contrast to the drizzle outside, but probably more than anything the sense of timelessness of the place.
We spent most of our time there in the tap room next door, which we mostly had to ourselves, and was still lovely in its own way. The beer was delicious. The food was great, no nonsense big heary Ploughman's lunches with homemade chutney and so forth. Both the landlady and the other lady behind the bar were really welcoming and friendly. It was absolute heaven.
Sadly we did eventually have to leave - less so because of any external pressures but like many old fashioned pubs they actually close between the lunchtime and evening "sessions" as I believe they are referred to in the trade. So we walked back into Petersfield. I had chosen a second pub in the town centre for this eventuality, but it wasn't very good to be honest - the Harrow Inn was a near impossible act to follow.
As is the "tradition" on these country pub jaunts with work friends (the precedent being two trips down to Nyetimber/Nutbourne) I had a quick dash around Petersfield town centre to procure a bottle of English sparkling wine (Hambledon on this occasion if I recall correctly) and a bag of chips to have on the train. With some curry sauce.
As I'd managed to be excused from parenting duties for the whole day, on return to London I proposed going for dinner, which a subset of us did (just me, Andrew and Gemma) but somehow that plan was manipulated into going to Deptford where Andrew lives. We had some sort of Indian food at a hipster-ish restaurant which I was left a bit confused by, followed by cocktails at a bar next to Deptford station, before I finally decided it was time to call it a day and head back home.
- Kings Cross
- [Friday 2nd February 2018]
A couple of early evening views from my office.
- [Thursday 1st February 2018]
- [Wednesday 31st January 2018]
- [Tuesday 30th January 2018]
- [Monday 29th January 2018]
Must have had Chinese food for dinner, followed by lychees for dessert.
- [Sunday 28th January 2018]
Didn't plan anything but Erika managed to see a few of her friends regardless.
- New Umbrella and Winter Lights
- [Saturday 27th January 2018]
Played with Erika t home in the morning, built a house out of cushions in the lounge.
Had lunch at home, then I was given some free time in the afternoon while Chie and Erika went off to visit friends. I addressed various items from my TODO list, got my hair cut, went and tried on another tweed suit and bought a new umbrella at James Smith. The previous one had finally broken last week after years of faithful service and neglect on my part (it was a bit rusty on the inside, which presumably contributed to one of the spokes breaking). Also popped into Fortnum and Mason for a flight of Charles Heidsieck.
Met up with Chie and Erika again in the early evening at Canary Wharf, as Chie wanted to see the Winter Lights display there. Unsurprisingly she was unimpressed compared to the recent illuminations we had seen in Japan, but it was something to do. I was reminded how fake and generally awful Canary Wharf, and so glad that unlike certainly other cities with a big finance industry presence how lucky we were in London to have pushed most of this out of the city centre.
While in the area we had dinner at the Canary Wharf branch of Ippudo. Part way through our meal the fire alarm went off and we all had to go and wait outside a bit. I suspect some diners just didn't bother returning. This seems to be a curse of modern buildings that they have overly sensitive fire alarms, the same thing seems to happen at my new office quite a lot.
- [Friday 26th January 2018]
We had been trying to make do for the last couple of weeks with whatever coffee beans we could get from our local shops, having just not been able to get round to going "all the way" down to Camden to buy the beans I really like, from George at Camden Coffee Shop, with his century old roasting machine. By today however I could suffer sub-par coffee no longer, and made a foray out at lunchtime to Camden to buy beans. I had about a half hour wait when I got there as George was busy packing a large order, but finally got hold of my kilo of beans and headed straight back home to make an espresso, which was excellent.
In the evening we had lazy fresh pasta from Marks and Spencer for dinner, with some bruschetta I threw together. The three of us played another game of bingo after dinner.
- [Thursday 25th January 2018]
Nominally bonus day at work today, although as always nothing even remotely in the way of festivities were evident at the office, and there seemed to be a collective feeling among the usual suspects that after the excesses of two years ago it would probably be best to just not do anything.
Erika had a friend round after school, so they had an early "tea" together, leaving Chie and I only needing to provide dinner for the two of us when it was our dinner time. As is often the case we decided as a result to order some Indian food. Later on Chie went to yoga, and when she got back we did a sort of baton pass and I went out to the Pineapple for a late night pint with Jeremy, something of a semi-regular fixture. We are currently discussing the idea of starting a salon, and this evening at the pub we deciding on what sort of format it should take, and trying to come up with potential themes.
- [Wednesday 24th January 2018]
Pasta for dinner. Played bingo with Erika in the evening, mainly intended as an educational activity for Erika (with the incentive of chocolate as prizes) but it was actually quite nice to do something the three of us could all play together.