Dr John Hawkins
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home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
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- Recent Entries:
- Do I really like curry...?
Lecture and Asahi
Family Tree Developments
Milke and Barry's Birthday Curry
Dad and Family Tree
I tried, but I failed...
It's becoming an obsession...
Family Tree and Office Party
Beer, Bad News and Getting Ill
Shopping and Curry
Mousaka and Monopoly
Whisky and Kim Chi Nabe
Return of the King
First day back
Not very much, but nice nonetheless
I don't know where I'm going until I get there...
Starting as I mean to go on...
- Do I really like curry...?
- [Friday 30th January] Kayochan, a friend of Chie's, came round for a curry (of the takeaway variety) and a few drinks. The pair of them stayed up quite late, but I was falling asleep by about 1AM. Recently I don't seem to be able to stay up late at all - maybe it's partly just that I've got into a routine, what with work and everything. Although New Year's Eve was an exception of course (I managed an astounding 5AM).
Increasingly I'm not sure if I actually like curry or not. I eat it pretty regularly, but am more often than not really disappointed. Part of the problem is the horrible bloated feeling I seem to get after about three mouthfuls - I'm not sure if this is down to the oil, or down to the spices. The other negative factor is that no matter what dish I order in a restaurant or takeaway, it always seems to taste basically the same. If I order a selection of different dishes, I struggle to tell which is which. Ironically, actually find curry to be quite bland in a sense - all spice and no real flavour.
Having said all of that, whenever I make a curry for myself, I usually really enjoy it. My creamy madras recipe never ceases to please me - without wanting to blow my own trumpet (although I'm blatantly going to) it really feels like leagues apart from the sort of uninspired mush I usually get in restaurants and takeaways. Perhaps my tastes are just very different to the bulk of the curry buying public.
- Lecture and Asahi
- [Thursday 29th January] In the afternoon, I gave a lecture at Reading Uni on Digital Television. It's something I do on a fairly regular basis, and have come to really enjoy. It was a bit of a marathon - a three hour slot (with a break in the middle), so I was talking more or less non-stop for about two and a half hours.
After that I met Chie on her way back from work, and together we went to the Cotton Club, where we met with some of the staff from Gyosei, and enjoyed a couple of games of pool plus some very nice beer (Asahi of course). For no particular reason, everyone seemed to be in a really good mood, and we had a really great time. It occurred to me how happy I am when I see Chie laughing - it's like the sun is shining. Although of course, in reality, it was dark outside, and the roads were still icy and treacherous from yesterday's snow.
- [Wednesday 28th January] There was the first (and probably only) snowstorm of this winter today. It all came down in about 30 minutes, and we suddenly went from clear skies and a perfectly normal day to some kind of arctic tundra. Poor old Chie was forced to abandon her car in Maidenhead and get the train back (OK well there was also the fact that she'd locked the keys inside by accident). On her return I tried to have a hearty, hot meal ready for her. So we started with minestrone soup with big croutons and lots of cheese. Then a nice insalata tricolore, and finally some spinach and ricotta ravioli. Can't remember doing much else the rest of the evening really, just eating basically, and being glad to be inside rather than out.
- Family Tree Developments
- [Tuesday 27th January] After very slow (or zero) progress over the last few days, my family tree suddenly had a big boost on several fronts. I'd ordered two more birth certificates over a week ago, and they arrived early this morning. This told me my great great grandmother's maiden name - Hogan, and I was then able to look up her family in the 1881 census and add a big chunk. Secondly, some very kind Australians answered my request for help on one of the geneaology newsgroups, and I was able to find out a lot about my great grandfather's younger brother. I'd known very vaguely that most of my great grandfather's siblings had gone to Australia, and have always thought it would be great to discover some Australian cousins, but having very little information to go on, I'd never got anywhere.
It turned out my great grandfather's younger brother Vernon had moved to Australia when he was very young - possibly around 18. He'd enrolled in the Australian army for both world wars (and survived!). The enrolement records were a goldmine of useful information. Not only did they have details like his date and place of birth, allowing me to confirm it was the right guy, it also listed the town he was from and who his wife was. So, at the end of WWII, my great great uncle was known to be alive, and in Lidcombe (a district of Sydney it seems) in New South Wales. Proabably he had children, most likely born in the 1920s, and who knows, maybe some of them could still be alive today. Or at least, their children or grandchildren.
In the evening, I went out with Chie and some of her friends for a meal at the Yellow River Cafe, which was surprisingly good, followed by a trip to the cinema to see The Last Samurai. Not really my cup of tea, despite being set in Japan. It just all seemed a bit pointless, really.
- [Monday 26th January 2004] Nothing particularly interesting happened today. Dinner was quite nice though, I made the first course, a sort of stir-fry with shiitake and noodles, and Chie made the second course, avocado and tomatoes wrapped in rice paper.
- Bike Ride
- [Sunday 25th January] Went for a bike ride along the Thames today with Chie, which was really nice. Had jacket potatoes for dinner. Lovely.
- Milke and Barry's Birthday Curry
- [Saturday 24th January] Stayed in during the daytime, and then in the evening went out for a curry with a load of people from work to celebrate Mike and Barry's birthdays. I probably wasn't really in the right frame of mind for a big night out and so didn't really enjoy myself a great deal. Still, that's life I suppose.
- [Friday 23rd January] Had a few pints at my local after work, after which Kev came round for dinner and more beers. Attempted to do deep frying whilst fairly drunk, which could have turned nasty. Luckily a sober Chie was there to take over. Showed Kev my family tree, which he very politely pretended to be interested in.
- Dad and Family Tree
- [Thursday 22nd January] My Dad came to stay today, which was great as it was my first opportunity to share my family tree findings with somebody who was actually interested (!). He'd brought with him an old family picture, of my great grandfather, his parents, and some of his brothers and sisters. We spent ages trying to work out who was who which was really hard work, as I'd only met one of them (my great grandfather) and my Dad had only met one or two more than that. I think we came to something of a consensus in the end, and the results are here - at the bottom of the page in the photo section. This picture has been hanging on the wall of my Dad's house for years, and we'd never really been able to put names to most of the faces before now. This has made my family tree research even more satisfying.
It's really hard to emphasize how much of a great experience this was - it doesn't sound it, just looking at an old photograph.... but it's such an excellent picture, so full of life, it almost felt like me and my Dad had spent an evening at a party with our ancestors.
- [Wednesday 21 January] Me and Chie decided we ought to get out of the flat tonight, so we got in the car not long after she got back from work and drove off in a fairly random direction. We thought we probably ought to go to some form of supermarket, but decided en route we ought to get something to eat first.
We decided on Italian, as we both fancied pizza. The food was all good actually, but between our starter and main course there was a really long wait - getting on for half an hour. I'd always thought part of the reason for having a starter is that it gives the kitchen a bit of time to prepare your main course. So probably all in all from the point at which we ordered our main course, it took 45 minutes or so. It only takes 10 minutes to cook a pizza.
Now, of course, being English I would rather not have made a fuss about it, I'd just look at it as one of those things, shit happens, etc. Chie however got really annoyed, which made me feel like I had to complain. I really don't like complaining in restaurants, and I don't think I'm very good at it. So I tried very hard to be polite and not agressive in any way. I think my comments were just "Was there any reason for the delay, we seemed to be waiting a long time there...?", and then a bit later on, when asked if everything was OK, I replied "The food's great, but it spoils it a bit when we have to wait half an hour for it". Looking back, I don't think either of these criticisms are particularly vindictive or anything. Still though, one of our two waiters seemed a bit upset by it, and I felt really bad. I wanted to get across the point that I wasn't angry with anyone, just that this is an aspect of their service they could improve. I think that Monty Python sketch where the guy complains about the dirty knife sums it up really well. We're just not used to complaining in restaurants in this country, so when it does happen it seems like quite a big deal.
In the end they gave us a 20% discount, which I thought was really good of them. I didn't totally feel like we deserved it - we'd paid for food, and we'd got that food (eventually), and it was actually quite nice. There was no promise in the menu about how long it would take. I felt wracked with guilt the rest of the evening. I guess that's the curse of being British.
- I tried, but I failed...
- [Tuesday 20th January] I thought I should really spend some time with Chie tonight, so I stopped doing family tree stuff as soon as she got home from work, we had dinner together, watched a bit of TV, but... around 9 I thought I'd just go and do 10 minutes on the family tree. 3 hours later it occurred to me this wasn't really 10 minutes any more.
- It's becoming an obsession...
- [Monday 19th January] Spent all evening doing research on the family tree, and seemed to be completely unable to pull myself away from it. Cold seems to have more or less disappeared altogether, thankfully, although Chie doesn't seem that well now.
- Lazy Sunday
- [Sunday 18th January] Still feeling a tiny bit ill, so I didn't really do a great deal today, and thought it was probably better to just relax. Spent a bit more time on the web trying to flesh out the family tree a bit. In the evening, had a very nice dinner - I made sushi and Chie made tempura. In the evening watched "Dude, Where's My Car?" which perhaps should have been called "Dude, What's the Point?", followed by Broken Arrow, which I know I've seen before, and didn't really enjoy the first time, but somehow felt oddly compelled to see it through to the end nonetheless.
- Family Tree and Office Party
- [Saturday 17th January] Felt a lot better this morning. Awoke to the sound of the postman, and excitedly ran down to check the post. I hardly ever get any post I actually want - usually its just bills and the like. Last Saturday, having found the entry in the GRO indices, I'd been able to request a copy of my Great Great Grandfather's Birth Certificate from the GRO's website. Pleasingly, it turns out his father (my Great Great Great Grandfather) was called John Hawkins too. I then spent some of the day doing more research on the family tree, and updating my family tree pages on the web. I think I managed to find an entry John Hawkins and his wife Marion in the 1901 census - by which time they were in their 60s - which allowed me to add even more detail.
In the evening went along to Chie's company's annual party. Sort of a christmas party, but not actually at Christmas. It was at Wentworth Golf Club. It was very nice, but I did feel a bit like a fish out of water given that I hardly knew anyone there. I guess it was a good demonstration of how Chie must feel when she comes along to my company's christmas do.
- Day Off
- [Friday 16th January] For the first time in, well, as long as I can remember really, I decided I was just too ill, and ought to take the day off. The rest really did me good. Spent most of the day in bed. I got my old Game Boy out, which I haven't touched for years. Amazingly the batteries still worked, and I spent a while playing Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, which must be really old. By the evening I was feeling a bit better. Chie made dinner - cous cous and halloumi with pitta bread. I think I am in danger of starting to like cous cous.
- Very Ill
- [Thursday 15th January] I struggled into work, but felt very crappy indeed. It was suggested that I should go home at lunchtime, but I bravely struggled through until about 5, when I gave up and went home. Drank a bit of medicinal whisky (Bowmore) later on that evening, which seemed to help temporarily, but by bedtime I felt really terrible again. I think I was probably very irritable towards the end of the evening, which can't have been very nice for Chie, poor girl.
- Ill, Cakes
- [Wednesday 14th January] I spent most of the day feeling pretty grotty and ill. In the evening, after dinner, I decided to bake some fairy cakes in an attempt to cheer myself up. They looked a bit untidy, but tasted pretty nice actually.
- Beer, Bad News and Getting Ill
- [Tuesday 13th January] Went for a couple of beers with Kevin after work. Got back home and heard some bad news - my Mum's cat had died. She was almost 20, so I'd known her since I was about 7 years old. I was pretty sad about it really. Towards the end of the evening I started to feel ill, it seemed to be the start of a cold. How annoying.
- Shopping and Curry
- Spent most of yesterday evening food shopping. Following on from my recent article about supermarkets, it seems some how or other we managed to spend even more than usual yesterday - a bafflingly high 56 quid. Ho, hum.
Upon returning home I made a very nice curry - a variation on my Creamy Madras with Lime and Green Beans recipe. This time though it included Kabocha (a kind of Japanese squash/pumpkin), brocolli, carrots, broad beans and molasses sugar. This for me really is the perfect curry. There's all the things you want in a curry there - a touch of sweet from the molasses, a touch of sour from the lime, creaminess from the yoghurt, as well as fruitiness and spiciness from the madras paste. Superb.
- Mousaka and Monopoly
- After a fairly uneventful afternoon, yesterday evening me and Chie went to Steve and Michelle's for dinner. Michelle made a vegetarian mousaka which was very nice. Plenty of wine was consumed as you might imagine. After dinner Michelle suggested we play Monopoly, which I dreaded to begin with, but almost started to enjoy after the first hour or so. Chie had never played before, but turned out to be very good at it, even bordering on a bit ruthless. Although in fairness, I did help her out a bit by giving her one of the orange ones, allowing her to complete the set and be the first to develop property. Donald Trump, if I remember correctly, once said he had sat down and did the calculations, which revealed in fact the orange ones provide the best return on your investment. I somewhat regretted having imparted this little nugget to Chie when, towards the end of the game, she bled me more or less dry upon landing on one of her hotels, on the most expensive of the three orange squares. I imagine this is the same mixed feeling of joy and envy felt by any teacher at the point when their students' ability excels their own. A bit like Plato and Aristotle, or something like that.
- Family Tree
- Following an item I saw on the news when I got up this morning, I've spent all day constructing a family tree. Thanks to the Internet I've found out quite a lot, particularly on my father's side. I managed to find the entry in the registry index for my great, great, grandfather, and this has allowed me to send off to get a copy of his birth certificate. When it arrives, it ought to then tell me about my great, great, great grandfather. One of the other great highlights was the online 1901 census for England and Wales. I was able to find the addresses and occupants of the houses where two of my great grandfathers were living, over 100 years ago.
You can see the fruits of my labours here.
- Going Out
- Last night we went out as a belated celebration for Simon's birthday. We went to Chili's, followed by a couple of beers in the Hogshead. I drank a sensibly small amount, and pleasingly therefore had no hangover this morning. Not much else to report!
- [For 8th January] Pretty much nothing at all of any note happened today. Watched a program on TV about fast food in America, and was intrigued by the notion that lawyers are trying to sue MacDonald's for making people fat. What a wonderful world we live in.
- Whisky and Kim Chi Nabe
- Yesterday my Dad came to stay, as he was working nearby. It's really nice being able to have members of my family as guests. Chie and I cooked. Typically whenever my Dad visits I'll make something Italian, but last night for a change I thought we'd go for something Japanese (well, sort of Korean as well) instead. So we made kim chi nabe, a kind of big hearty all-in soup based with lots of kim-chi in (that spicy pickled cabbage stuff I made the other day).
We also had a bit of a whisky tasting session - Dad tried some of my Lagavulin and seemed to enjoy it every bit as much as I do. We also had a couple of glasses of the Bowmore Darkest Sherry Casked, which I got for christmas.
- Return of the King
- Last night Chie very kindly agreed to go along with me to the cinema and watch the last film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy; Return of the King. She'd slept through significant parts of the first two films, and this was seeming to be the longest of them all. Amazingly, she didn't seem to sleep at all, although whether or not she actually enjoyed it I'm not too sure.
If anything I was a tiny bit disappointed. I don't think there was anything wrong with the film, I couldn't suggest any way to improve it at all, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the other two. I think there could be a number of factors. Knowing it's the last film probably had a negative effect for me. I've had a long running love affair with these books for a significant portion of my life, and the films have really brought the stories to life again. So I guess watching the last film is a bit depressing because I knew it was coming to an end. Probably also I can remember more of the plot from the last book than the other two books, so as every part of the plot happened I was already thinking about the next bit. I guess the last book hinges more on tension than the other two. There's lots of will they make it or not moments. So obviously, by the third or fourth pass of reading / watching the story you end up knowing exactly what's going to happen and just thinking (a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail) "Get on with it!".
In addition, there was a long (but admittedly necessary) section of winding down at the end of the film. In a similar vein the first film has a lot of winding up at the start, introducing the characters and so on.
The more I think about it, the more I think, perhaps unusually, that the second book/film, The Two Towers, is actually my favourite. It begins powerfully, and ends powerfully, and I found the film to be utterly engrossing the whole way through. It had some amazing sets - Edoras and Helm's Deep. Not to take anything away from the sets in Return of The King, they were all pretty great too, but perhaps by that point we'd all just got used to it.
To sum up, that feeling of magic I used to get from reading the books when I was younger was there again when I watched all three films to some extent, but I felt particularly immersed in the second one.
- First day back
- Yes, today was my first day back at work after a fairly long break for christmas / new year. It really wasn't too bad, all in all.
I've been considering for a while getting a new PC - to have as a server. I wanted something as small and quiet (oh, and cheap!) as possible, and pleasingly Simon at work had brought in some PC magazine or other which had a special feature on mini PCs. Scan seemed to be a good place to look.
In the evening had a nice Japanese meal including homemade kim chi (korean pickled cabbage), umeboshi (pickled plums), broad beans in soy sauce and butter (an obsession of mine) and lots of konyaku (kind of jelly stuff made from some kind of yam). I became less sure as to whether or not I actually liked konyaku. Gave my brother a call, poor bloke is suffering from chicken pox within just a few days of his wife giving birth to a baby girl - Katie (Katey?) Hawkins.
- Not very much, but nice nonetheless
- [For 4th January] I had a vague plan today to do something or other with Mark, possibly lunch, however this didn't work out in the end, as he was otherwise engaged. As this was the last day of my (almost two week) holiday, I thought I ought to try and get a lot of bits and pieces sorted out. So, I spent a lot of the day at the computer, and also some time doing washing, household chores, and so on. Poor old Chie wasn't very well so I spent some time looking after her as well.
In the evening I watched a film called Wonder Boys (I hadn't heard of it before, but probably other people have), which was really quite odd indeed. It vaguely occurred to me I ought to have a go at writing a novel one day. This has been placed very low on my current list of priorities, however.
- Retail Narcolepsy
- A term I invented today and want to immediately claim sole credit for. This is the syndrome suffered particularly in men when being dragged around shops by their other halves, especially prevalent in sales season. I actually want to be interested but it can be an amazingly hard task to ward off the sleepiness at times. Yes, today me and Chie went to London and had a tour of the department stores. Despite lots of things apparently being "on sale" with "huge reductions" it still seemed to be a load of fundamentally bland clothes that were hideously over priced. I found brief respite from this unbearable boredom by being immensely criticial - out loud - of everything I didn't like. It was an interesting experiment, and it seemed to genuinely offend shop assistants, which I actually found surprising. Some of the metaphors I particularly enjoyed myself were "it's like old unwashed net curtains", "it's ambitiously repugnant" and "it's really good because it's just a completely normal, dull and uninteresting skirt, but look, they want sixty quid for it". Still, even this modus operandi, which began as quite entertaining, did eventually lose it's charm, and by the end of the afternoon there I was - that small boy again, pleading with my mother to make this the last shoe shop, for god's sake.
The start of the day was a bit of a failure - we'd both wanted to go to Spitalfields Market, to visit Square Pie, only to find it's closed on Saturday (the entire market that is). Our plan B was actually pretty good - the dubiously titled "S & M" (Sausage and Mash, that is) just nearby Spitalifields. We ate exactly that - Sausage and Mash. I slightly regretted my choice of tomato gravy (my own fault, as I was too shy to ask if the other gravy choices were vegetarian), but the sausage and mash were both great. I particularly enjoyed the spinach and cheddar sausage.
After all shopping activity had (thankfully) ceased, we were in two minds as to whether to stay in the city for dinner, or just give up and go home. We fell into the none-too-promising activity of wandering the streets around Paddington station until, in what must have been divine intervention, we bumped into the guy from our old local Italian restaurant in Hampstead. After a brief chat where we established he's since left our former haunt, we asked him if he knew anywhere near Paddington that was good to eat at, and he pointed us in the direction of Brazas, where a friend of his worked. The food was good, and it was made all the more enjoyable by being able to chat to our waiter about a mutual friend. This was, all told, a very pleasing end result, having started off our search for food with utterly no planning whatsoever. Yet again, 2004 is boding well for what I'd previously thought to be the dying the art of randomness.
- I don't know where I'm going until I get there...
- ...is a song my Dad used to sing in the car, largely it seems to wind up the rest of my family. This however seems to sum up really well how I went about planning today, and it was actually really nice. We'd originally planned to go into London, but following the excesses of new year, we'd overslept somewhat, and ended up getting out of bed around midday. By the time we'd had a bite to eat, washed and so on, it was already half past one. Given that it takes about an hour and a half to get to London, and Chie mainly wanted to go for shopping, we ended up giving up on that particular plan.
Determined not to have a totally wasted day, we then drove to Halford's to look for a new fan belt for Chie's car (it has been squealing a lot, and gets on Chie's nerves a bit). Given that they didn't have the right kind of Hayne's manual we gave up on that too, and decided to head off somewhere for afternoon tea. I did, however, managed to change the right brake light, and then later on the right indicator, which made me feel surprisingly proud of myself.
After leaving Halford's car park, we drove in an almost random direction for a while, until we happened to end up in Henley. In "Henley Tea Rooms" we treated ourselves to two scones each, a toasted teacake, and a fairly pointless cheese sandwich. After tea, as we were both still enjoying our aimless meandering, we decided to proceed on to Windsor, as we both vaguely thought there was some kind of jazz cafe or something there. There didn't seem to be, but we had a nice wander round nonetheless. I'd never been to Windsor before, and hadn't realised how nice it actually was. I made a mental note that it might make a good venue for the next in my series of historic pub crawls.
On the way back from Windsor, we considered stopping off "somewhere nice" for dinner. We didn't quite manage dinner, in the end, but settled for a quick drink in a pub I'd heard about in Upper Basildon. I'd been told it was called the Bumblebee, but what we found was a pub called the Beehive. It was very nice nonetheless. All in all a very pleasing day - having gone out in the car with the sole intention of getting a new fan belt, we ended up on a really nice driving tour encompassing Henley, Windsor and Upper Basildon. This bodes well for 2004, after last year becoming increasingly concerned about how planned and predictable life was, the new year has already kicked off with the opposite. I wonder if there is any significance in the chinese years - 2003 was the sheep, which I guess implies doing the same as everyone else and generally being pretty boring. 2004 is the year of the monkey, which hopefully brings with it connotations of being a bit cheeky, err, and spontaneous, err, or something like that.
- Starting as I mean to go on...
- [For the 1st of January] OK so my first diary entry is already a day late. Today (which is yesterday as I write) I woke up about 11 or 11:30 with a fairly bad hangover. As my hangovers go, it wasn't the absolute worst (I only threw up once, and it wasn't particularly evil). Recovery was a slow and difficult process, which was helped greatly by Chie. At around 4, when my stomach was first giving me an inckling I might be able to eat something, I told Chie I had a craving for yorkshire puddings. Lo and behold she went into the kitchen and made a trayfull, with only minimal assistance from me. I was very pleased with this. It was one of those trays that fits twelve. I ate ten, Chie had one, and another one seemed to go missing mysteriously in the process of cooking. After the feast of yorkshire puddings, I was on a roll, and managed some leftovers from the previous evening's dinner party (lasagne and garlic bread), and then later on nibbled on tortilla chips which were surprisingly nice, whilst watching Road to Perdition which was a bit miserable. Spent the rest of the evening watching TV, then went to bed.
- Having seen this weblog become gradually more and more neglected, I've decided as a sort of New Year's Resolution I ought to try and write a brief diary, with an entry more or less every day where possible. As is the way generally with new year's resolutions, I haven't quite got around to starting it until a couple of days into the year, and I shall probably abandon the idea by mid January. At least I'm going to have a bash to start with though.