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Pontefract Castle and Sushi

Posted on 2008/01/10 21:54:37 (January 2008).

[Saturday 5th January]
Initially Chie went out in the afternoon today and left me at home to do my own thing, but after a while I too headed into the centre to meet her. We had a vague plan of trying to find somewhere for afternoon tea - Chie had the idea of trying the cafe at Fenwick on Bond Street, but once we actually got in there it was a bit underwhelming, so we gave up.

Luckily we were saved from a mass of indecision over what to do with ourselves by a phonecall from Chie's friend Akino-san. Akino-san and her other half Tim were also shopping in central London, and suggested meeting up to go for a drink. This required a snap decision on a reasonable pub near Oxford Street - not exactly a normal stomping ground for me - but I drew on my expansive recollection of pubs I had wandered past at some point and thought looked worthy of trying out.

So to this end we gave the Pontefract Castle a go. Whilst from the outside this had looked quite appealing, my initial reaction on entering the place was actually a slight twinge of disappointment - it had very much of a chain pub feel to it. However, the lack of seats on the ground floor prompted us to give the cellar bar a go, which was actually quite special - dimly lit and with lots of little nooks and crannies, and mostly unoccupied. I think for this reason I shall retain this in my list of viable pubs if I'm ever required to suggest one in that area again.

We spent a good couple of hours there, and were also joined by a couple of Tim's friends who happened to be in the area - one of whom was a very interesting guy who worked in television, making documentaries for the BBC on all sorts of subjects. His most recent project was about Arab science, which brought to mind the conversations I used to have with Ali (my Phd supervisor) on the importance of zero. It's apparently an Arab invention (although I have since heard it claimed by Indian mathematicians) - amazingly Roman numberals and other earlier number systems have no concept of zero, and it wasn't until our Middle Eastern chums came along and started to theorise about zero that we really had any solid foundation on which to build mathematics as we know it today.

I suppose the Romans would probably argue that there isn't really much point in writing down a number if it represents something you don't have any of. If they didn't have any bananas, they probably just wouldn't have recorded that fact.

Eventually we decided we ought to get something to eat - and so the four of us (me, Chie, Akino-san and Tim) went on a short quest to find some Japanese food. Our initial attempt - a restaurant called Sakura just off Regent Street - wasn't particularly successful - there seemed to be more people queueing than people actually eating. So instead we opted for for Yoshino - a suhi place just off Piccadilly where Chie and I had been once before. We were able to get seated straight away - I'm not really sure why this place isn't a lot more popular, as the quality is very good, it's very authentic, the decor is very nice and the prices are also quite reasonable. Well I'm certainly not complaining - it's great that we could just walk straight in and get seated.

So dinner at Yoshino was very nice, just like our previous visit, and I particularly enjoyed our atsukan (hot sake).

We have recently spent time with a few of Chie's Japanese friends who have native English speaking other-halves. I find this quite gratifying - I do occasionally feel a twang of frustration that my Japanese isn't better than it is, considering I've known Chie for nearly eight years now. However what I actually realise is that the norm in this kind of situation appears to be for the couple to converse almost entirely in English - particularly if they met and are still living outside of Japan. So if anything my Japanese is a lot more advanced than other people in the same situation - obviously helped by the fact I lived there for a while - especially considering I have never formally learnt the language, with the exception of a few basic lessons laid on by my employer when I was working in Japan.

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