John Hawkins



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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Recent Entries:
Hypnogogic Jerk
Not Very Well
Champocalypse
Late Meeting
If you want me, I'll be at my club
Clothes Storage System
Moving Desks
NW5
Ippudo
Partition Wall Again
Partition Wall
Marylebone
Okonomiyaki
Monday
Islington with Mum
Guildford
Land Law
Rush Hour
Wednesday
Tuesday
Quote
Museums
Project Manager
Back at Work
New Year's Day
New Year's Eve
London Aquarium
Tidying Up
...and back to London again
Down to Devon
Boxing Day
Christmas Day
Christmas Eve
Quaint
Monday
Sunday in Canterbury
Hamley's and Canterbury
Bathroom Appointment
Erika's Christmas Concert
Wednesday
Tuesday
Monday
Sunday

Hypnogogic Jerk
[Sunday 25th January 2015]
Although she was awake for a bit in the middle of the night , this morning Erika seemed a lot brighter than she had the previous morning, so fingers crossed this is just a run of the mill cold this time and will blow over in a couple of days.

For a while now, Erika has been doing this odd thing, particularly when sleepy, of sort of tensing up all her muscles, arching her back, and going quiet for a bit. She doesn't appear to be in any pain, and just relaxes when it's over, but it does seem to be getting a bit more frequent recently, so we thought we should probably see what the doctor has to say about it. As fortunately the surgery she's registered as has weekend walk-in clinics we popped along to that this morning just after 10, and were told we could see a doctor an hour-and-a-bit later. In the interim I took Erika to the playground, at her request, and did my best to keep her wrapped up as warm as possible (something which is a constant struggle as she really doesn't seem to like wearing hats and gloves).

We showed the doctor a video Chie had taken of Erika when she goes all tense, and whilst it'll require a bit a further investigation, his first guess was something called a "hypnogogic jerk", which is similar to that sensation you sometimes get that you've fallen over just before you fall asleep apparently - an odd side effect of the transition from being awake to being asleep. A lot of kids apparently go through phases of odd behaviour like this, and a lot of the time just grow out of it without requiring any treatment. Anyway we've been referred to see a specialist who will do a few more tests and fingers crossed it won't come to anything.

Chie had originally planned to take Erika along to a leaving lunch for one of her friends who also has kids, and is imminently moving back to Japan. Although Erika seemed relatively bright it didn't seem fair to inflict her cold on the other children, so instead Chie went along by herself, and I took after Erika for the afternoon.
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Not Very Well
[Saturday 24th January 2015]
In the morning, having overdone it a tad the night before, I did not feel particularly well. Chie very kindly just left me to it and let me sleep it off for a few hours, punctuated by occasional visits from Erika who, at one point, brought in a box of Ibuprofen and said "Eat it. Feel better Daddy.". I am increasingly developing the opinion she has a career in medicine ahead of her.

By lunchtime I was returning to being a useful human being / parent again. After a reviving meal of rice and miso soup I eventually managed to have a shower and make myself look presentable, and we decided we should head out for a bit, to see if we could take Erika to the doctor (not for the cold she currently has, but another issue, details tomorrow) but they were already fully booked for the day. We also took some books I'd decided to clear out recently to the charity shop, and did a quick bit of food shopping - but Erika started to look really cold, so after that we headed back home again.

On getting back home I tidied up the flat a bit, and Erika's condition deteriorated a bit, she started to get quite feverish towards the end of the afternoon. The girls watched Spirited Away while I cooked dinner - a vegetable lasagne. As always we started off by giving Erika some Calpol, but as always that didn't seem to do anything to her fever, and instead gave her some Nurofen. Once that took effect her fever did eventually come down, and she perked up a bit, enough to eventually get her to eat some of my lasagne.

All three of us felt quite tired, so ended up all going to bed the same time as Erika some time between 8 and 9.
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Champocalypse
[Friday 23rd January 2015]
Chie had a busy day with Erika today, with both a dentist and ophthalmologist appointment for her in the morning. She apparently did not like having eyedrops put in at all.

After that the girls came to my office for lunch, which was nice, although unfortunately now Erika knows there's ice cream ay my office and it was therefore very hard to persuade her to eat anything else.

Today was annual bonus day at work, and felt particularly good about it this year, as until now pretty much all the money has always just been set aside for buying a flat. Whilst on the one hand I accept this is of course never ending - owning one property just makes you think about buying the next, larger, nicer place - nontheless I felt a greater sense of freedom this year and felt justified to fritter away at least some of it in any manner I chose to.

On that note I gathered together a few of the usual suspects at work this evening and popped a few corks to celebrate. Having moved desks recently we improvised a large ice bucket from one of the moving crates, which was rather satisfying. As has become something of an occasional tradition at these crass binges of excess, we rounded off the evening with pizza at Oliveto which was excellent as always.
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Late Meeting
[Thursday 22nd January 2015]
Had a late meeting today, to give a presentation over VC to a group of people in the US. I think it went moderately well.

Got back home some time after 7, and as Chie and Erika had already eaten dinner I just cobbled something together from leftovers for myself.
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If you want me, I'll be at my club
[Wednesday 21st January 2015]
This year, I suppose as a sort of new year's resolution, I set out really determined to finally join a St. James's club. I've often thought how nice it would be to have a sort of home from home in which to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, reading the Sunday papers in the drawing room, or going for the occasional drink after work when in the mood for something a bit more civilised than the pub, or having one of those long, gout inducing, boozy lunches I imagine aristocrats and politicians are so fond of. I'd done quite a bit of research on the entrance requirements of various clubs, and found the vast majority required you to know, and have your application supported by, two existing members. So I was rather pleased when I eventually stumbled across the website for the Royal Over-Seas League, which, although by default they still require a proposer/seconder like all the other places, they waive that requirement for people belonging to a number of affiliated organisations, one of them, conveniently enough, being Reading University. So I'd applied to join earlier this month, and got my membership number through today.

I couldn't wait to go and have a nose around my new club, so slipped out of the office a bit early, jumped in a taxi to St. James's, and got out at Park Place, just off St. James's Street, where the ROSL's clubhouse is located. I poked my nose in at the bar briefly, had a quick drink there, and also went on a bit of a wander round the first floor. It's a pleasingly grand building, although on this first visit at least largely felt a bit deserted. They can probably be forgive for that, it was after all early on an uneventful mid-week evening in January.

Didn't stay long, and headed back home in time to knock up a quick spaghetti bolognese for the girls.
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Clothes Storage System
[Tuesday 20th January 2015]
We'd decided to do away with the "clothing system" in the back bedroom of the new flat, since the room is pretty tiny, and we want to try and squeeze a double bed in there. We'd originally thought about selling it, but I was put off by the idea of having to deal with a complete stranger, so instead offered to give it away for free on one of the mailing lists at work, on the basis that whoever took it would come and dismantle and collect it.

So after first popping home to make dinner for the girls I then got on the tube and met the woman from work who was going to take it, and rather charmingly had brought her Dad along to help dismantle it. It took a bit longer than I'd originally expected - just over an hour.

I spotted a couple of bits of progress while I was there, the ceiling has been replaced where the partition wall was removed (the hallway and lounge ceilings were different heights, so a small section has been raised) and also the bath tub had arrived. The bathroom is still very much an empty shell though (and also has a bit of an unpleasant whiff to it).
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Moving Desks
[Monday 19th January 2015]
From today I was at a new desk, in fact not just a different desk, but in a different building, across the road from the other one, which I'd been in for 8 years. It is going to take a bit of getting used to.

Went for a quick impromptu drink after work with some of the usual suspects at, weirdly enough, a cocktail bar in Pimlico (in the basement of the Artists Residence a "boutique hotel"). Had their "Dr Negroni PhD" which was an interesting (albeit perhaps a bit too light for my tastes) twist on a Negroni. Didn't stay very long, and was back in time to catch the tail end of dinner with the girls.
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NW5
[Sunday 18th January 2015]
Headed up to NW5 towards the end of the morning to check a couple of things in the new flat. I think mainly I wanted to take a look at the "clothes storage system" in the back bedroom to see how easy it would be to detach / dismantle, as it was looking like the builders would want to do a bit of plastering work in that room soon, so it needed to be disposed of in the not too distant future.

Given that we were in the area, I thought we'd try one of the nearby pubs out for Sunday lunch. For some reason central London seems largely devoid of pubs serving Sunday lunch with decent vegetarian options, whereas in North London there are plenty of them. I don't really get why that would be. Today we gave the Assembly House ago, heading there by way of a playground so Erika could have a go on the swings. They had a sort of "nut roast" as their vegetarian option which frankly wasn't great (far too soft, and the blue cheese was a bit overpowering), but it came with roast potatoes, a Yorkshire and gravy, so overall I was happy. I wanted to hang around in the area for a bit longer to try and get back a spare set of keys we'd left with the electrician who'd been round the other day, because the builders now wanted another set. So to kill a bit of time we went for a post lunch coffee, then headed down in the direction of Camden to go to a bed shop there. After that we had a rather fraught attempt to get Erika to have her afternoon nap, which involved her wailing as we pushed her in her buggy along a busy shopping street in Camden. A bit embarassing. We eventually kept walking all the way down to Euston, and she fell asleep just before we got there.

Chie took Erika back home from there, while I went back up to NW5 to pick up the spare keys. On the way back home I went by way of Soho, had a quick drink in the Coach and Horses, bought a new bottle of vermouth in Gerry's, and on a whim got a terrible hair cut for 6 in one of those cheap barbershops in Soho.

Back at home we had tofu and inari sushi for dinner.
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Ippudo
[Saturday 17th January 2015]
Chie was in the mood for ramen today, and we decided to try out Ippudo, the London branch of the ramen chain which, although originating in Japan, is probably most famous for their branch in New York. It did rather feel like an American dining experience, particularly with the rather overly enthusiastic attempts by all the non-Japanese staff to rather unconvincingly throw tidbits of Japanese into their presumably scripted service, but I suppose they were at least making an effort. I have to admit the ramen were actually pretty good - excitingly there was a choice of three vegetarian options and at least the one I went for didn't have the slightest hint of words like "natural" or "healthy" in the description, as sadly seems to be the case at a lot of the other ramen places in London. Instead it was a delightfully gutsy experience, very strongly flavoured, and a real assault to the senses.

After lunch, we went to John Lewis for a bit, and also stopped off for a coffee in an odd little cafe in the corner of a clothes shop on Wigmore Street whilst Erika was having her afternoon nap. We would probably have just headed home after that, but received an email from the upstairs neighbours of the new flat that apparently the builders had been smoking in our flat again (particularly noticeable this time as the ceiling in our flat was currently partially removed). This made me rather cross, having already raised this issue once - so we got on the tube and headed straight up to the new flat, where I had words with the builders directly. On the plus side we got to see that the partition wall had now been fully removed and also Chie and Erika had a chance to meet the upstairs neighbours for the first time - albeit very briefly.
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Partition Wall Again
[Friday 16th January 2015]
I had to go to the new flat briefly in the morning again to let the glazier in, who was going to be replacing a pane of glass. Whilst trying to open the door there was a voice the other side saying "who is it?" which was a bit odd, you know, what with me being the owner and everything. It was one of the builders, who had got there early, and was making a start on removing the partition wall. He had also got the oven on with the door open because it was cold and the heating wasn't working. I dread to think what our first electricity bill is going to look like. I spent a while fiddling with the boiler trying to figure out why it wasn't working until I eventually realised they'd removed the towel rail in the bathroom, so presumably the whole system was drained.

Fortunately the glazier was very quick and so I didn't lose too much of my morning.
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Partition Wall
[Thursday 15th January 2015]
Had to pop to the new flat this morning to have a contractor give a quote for some work separate to the main body of refurbishment work we're having done prior to moving. Whilst there I took a few pictures of the partition wall which was due to be removed tomorrow.
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Marylebone
[Wednesday 14th January 2015]
Went out for drinks this evening with some of the usual suspects in Marylebone. It turned into a miniature pub crawl, starting at the Gunmakers, then proceeding to the Windsor Castle, and finishing at the Lord Wargrave.
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Okonomiyaki
[Tuesday 13th January 2015]
Not much to report really. Chie made okonomiyaki for dinner.
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Monday
[Monday 12th January 2015]
Erika decided to draw on her face in the morning just before we were due to leave for nursery. Fortunately it proved quite straightforward to clean off.

Received some bathroom tile samples to choose from at work in the daytime. I found it very hard to get excited about any of them, and am frankly losing interesting in the whole process somewhat!
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Islington with Mum
[Sunday 11th January 2015]
Mum came to London today as she had a course in the afternoon in Islington. So after tea in the morning at the flat in Pimlico, we headed up to Angel together, where we went for lunch at The Gate, the second branch of a long running vegetarian restaurant, the other being in Hammersmith, one of those places we kept meaning to try at some point but never quite got round to. I have to admit I was a tad sceptical at first, as the menu looked like the typical confused mish-mash of global cuisine you often get in vegetarian restaurants. It's not that I don't like food from lots of different countries, but I question whether the same chef and kitchen can really make the best of so many different styles of cooking, and sets of ingredients. Anyway, perhaps as a happy accident, it turned out there was some problem with the kitchen today, and half the menu was unavailable - so the choices were limited to what seemed like a more manageable selection. Both Chie and I ordered the "aubergine schintzel", and both agreed it was actually quite good.

To my surprise, Erika fell asleep in my arms before any of the food arrived - it's very unusual for her to fall asleep anywhere but in her buggy in the daytime. It was rather lovely, although I did then feel a bit guilty that she missed out on the food. We managed to successfully transplant her into her buggy without waking her up, so the three of us grown-ups were able to have a relaxing meal without having to keep Erika entertained / try to shovel food into her mouth / stop her from getting down and running about. Albeit, as noted, with a twinge of guilt - particularly as we ended up eating the kid's meal we'd ordered for her.

After lunch Chie took Erika home, and Mum and I had a bit of a wander round Islington, before she went off to her course, and I headed up to the new flat to inspect the refurbishment work which had been started the day before. Impressively, although also slightly disconcertingly, the contents of the bathroom had been entirely removed, and placed rather unceremoniously in a big heap on our patio. Whilst it was good to see progress had already been made, I'd rather hoped the flat wouldn't have to go too long without at least a functioning toilet!
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Guildford
[Saturday 10th January 2015]
Finally got round to going to Guildford today, which was supposed to be some time over the Christmas period.

Chie wasn't feeling 100%, and had also found looking after Erika the day before a bit tiring, so I volunteered to take Erika down by myself, allowing Chie to have a complete rest at home. We made a fairly early start, as I was hoping to try and have the return journey coincide with Erika's afternoon nap, and was also aware the trains were taking longer than usual owing to some kind of engineering works. In fact it took a whole hour and a half to get from Waterloo to Guildford, and it was a bit of a challenge to keep Erika entertained the whole time!

This was our first time to meet baby Emily, who seemed very content during our time there. Katie was also very sweet in helping to entertain Erika, bringing all her cuddly toys down to the lounge for her to play with. The boys, on the other hand, spent the majority of the time playing on the computer and barely seemed to notice we were there!

We left there around 3ish, and Erika was already getting a bit grotty in the taxi on the way back to the station. I wheeled her round the station in her buggy for a little bit, and she soon fell asleep as I'd hoped she would. So it was an easy and peaceful train ride back to London, albeit rather a slow one again.
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Land Law
[Friday 9th January 2015]
Having wanted to better understand all the minutiae of the lease on our new flat (which to some extent doesn't matter as we also have a share of the freehold, and are therefore both lessee and, at least partially, lessor) I'd ordered a book on UK land law this week. I was amused to read in the opening passages that the crown technically owns all land in England. Well that rather simplifies things then.

Picked up takeaway pizza from Oliveto for dinner.
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Rush Hour
[Thursday 8th January 2015]
Had to go to the new flat early in the morning to let an electrician in to do a survey of the electrical installation (Robert had recommended this when they came to visit in November). Consequently this meant I then got to experience what will, as of next month, be my morning commute - and it was quite horrendous. I waited at our nearest station as about four Northern line trains passed which I couldn't get on because they were already packed full. Then changing at Euston I waited as about 10 passed. It was apparently not entirely representative, as apparently the Piccadilly line was closed today, which sent a lot of extra passengers onto the Victoria line instead. Plus of course I probably wouldn't typically be travelling in before 9, as presumably I'll be dropping off at the new nursery in the mornings like I do at the current one.

Still, those things aside it was rather demoralising, and just another item to add onto the list of reasons for why I'm frankly not really looking forward to moving.

In the evening, I rather unusually made a tagine for dinner. I say unusually, in fact I don't think I've ever made one before. The main motivation was that we have loads of cous cous in the cupboards, and I'm trying my best at present to things up before we move. I took a quick look on the web for recipes before embarking, and it seemed like the key ingredient was prunes - in addition to that I added some chickpeas, courgettes and peppers. It came out reasonably well I thought.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 7th January 2015]
According to my chat history it sounds like we had fresh pasta for dinner. Other than that can't really remember anything about today.
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Tuesday
[Tuesday 6th January 2015]
Spent most of the morning at the new flat. We had quite a few contractors of various types who needed to come for various reasons, mostly to give quotes for assorted jobs which needed doing. I'd tried my best to condense all of these into one day this week to attempt to minimise the amount of time I needed to be out of work.

It was originally going to be five different people coming, but I eventually decided that was a bit over the top, so had cancelled two. Of the three who did come, two were very pleasant, and the third was a rather miserable curmudgeon, who left me in a bit of a foul mood afterwards.
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Quote
[Monday 5th January 2015]
Got the quote for all the building work / refurbishment we'd discussed with the project manager and builder we'd met on Saturday, and after giving it some thought we decided to go ahead and use them. We'd had quotes from a few different people for bathrooms now, plus quotes for some of the other work we wanted doing, and we'd been a mass of indecision until now about what we should do, which is of course all the more frustrating with the clock ticking away before our moving date, and nothing having got done so far in the 7 weeks since we'd actually bought the place. So it felt good to have finally made a decision today, and that work would be underway soon - not to mention to know a (relatively) fixed sum that it was all going to cost.

Even for the relatively small amount of work we wanted to do - replace the bathroom, remove a partition wall, install a new radiator, and then generally redecorate - I'd eventually come to the conclusion that it would really be worth the bit of extra money to have a project manager coordinate it all for us, and so that was also an added weight off my mind.
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Museums
[Sunday 4th January 2015]
Decided to try and have a complete break from organising things to do with the new flat today, and instead went on a bit of a museum crawl - we visited the Tate Britain, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy today. Oh and also fit in lunch at Mr Kong.
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Project Manager
[Saturday 3rd January 2015]
Went to the new flat today to meet a project manager (and the builder she worked with) who had been recommended through someone at work. Up until now we'd been more looking at just getting the various bits of work we wanted done separately - but it had started to dawn on me that despite our best efforts to keep the todo list as constrained as possible there were still rather a lot of odds and ends that really would be better having sorted out before we moved in. The thought of just being able to hand over that list to one person who could then coordinate it all was rather attractive.
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Back at Work
[Friday 2nd January 2015]
I went to work today, and the girls came to my office for lunch. The main cafe in my office wasn't open, as most people were still off work, so instead we picked up lunch from the little deli, which, as it was a bit crowded, and didn't seem like the best place for a little toddler to be, we took to the bus instead. Yes, the bus in my office.

I had been rather disappointed by various pub closures over the Christmas period, having hoped to have a Christmassy pint both on Christmas Eve, which didn't really work out as planned, and Christmas day - in both cases the pubs I wanted to go to were closed. Also there was no TGIF at the office today. So to compensate I very briefly went to the Duke of Wellington after work, and had a pint in front of the fire.

Back at the flat, had tapas for dinner.
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New Year's Day
[Thursday 1st January 2015]
Had a lazy morning in at home.

In the afternoon, Chie and Erika headed up to North London for a New Year's Day party at her friend Naoko-san's house. I'd originally planned to leave them to it, as I had a couple of things I wanted to do at the new flat - I think I wanted to take yet more measurements, or something - I forget exactly now. I was done at the new flat pretty quickly though, and it occurred to me there was actually quite a handy Overground service from around there to near where Naoko-san's house, so I hopped on that and went to meet them all.

Rather predictably ended up having a banal conversation about houses, builders and so on for most of the time I was there, but this was made more bearable by a free flowing supply of hot sake and some rather nice chirashi sushi.
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New Year's Eve
[Wednesday 31st December 2014]
Chie had decided to go into work today, I think partly because she'd heard that people in her office typically get sent home after lunch on New Year's Eve, so it seemed a bit of a waste to take a day's holiday. So I stayed home with Erika in the morning, then we went together to the city around lunchtime to meet Chie.

We had lunch with a friend of hers from work at a place called Bad Egg which we uniformly agreed was not very good - the food was all ridiculously over salted, and some of the portion sizes were a bit pathetic. This put me in a bit of a grumpy mood.

From there we went to the Museum of London for a bit of a look around, mainly because we'd heard there was a Paddington exhibition on at the moment, although this proved to be rather tiny - just one little corner of a room as far as we could tell. Still, various random other things in there proved entertaining for Erika one way or another.

After that we went to the new flat for a little bit, although I forget why now, and then headed back home again.

We'd thought about possibly going out to see the fireworks, but ultimately decided we couldn't be bothered, so just stayed in and watched them on the telly instead.
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London Aquarium
[Tuesday 30th December 2014]
Chie went to work today, so as Erika's nursery was closed over the Christmas period, I tried to think of something fun for us to do together. It was a bit cold so I didn't want it to involve being outdoors too much, and in the end the only thing I managed to come up with was the London Aquarium.

Erika has definitely enjoyed visiting aquariums in the past - she liked the little one in the basement of the Horniman Museum, the aquarium in London Zoo, the one in Brighton, the huge one in Genoa, and the one in the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. So this seemed like a sure fire success, but turned out to be an important reminder not to take anything like that for granted with toddlers, who can be quite mercurial creatures. I think part of the issue may have been that the London Aquarium is quite claustrophobic - lots of small corridors, and it was pretty crowded - and also mostly quite dark. Being in the dark didn't seem to bother Erika much until recently, but in the last few months she's started to object a bit more to us turning the light off at bedtime, etc. So unfortunately most of the way round the aquarium she kept saying it was a bit scary, and just wanted to move onto the next bit as quickly as possibly. The only part which was a bit more successful was the penguin tank, which was more brightly lit. Oh well.

On the way out I took a quick look at the silly overpriced photo they'd taken of the two of us on the way in, with us super imposed onto several different backdrops. I never normally give any thought to buying these, and previously wondered who ever does - but realised it is of course exactly soft-in-the=head parents like me. Erika said she wanted to take the photos, so I dutifully handed over the cash. So at least we've got a silly keepsake which suggests we might have had a fun time.

Afterwards we crossed over the river, and looked for somewhere to have lunch. I thought it might be nice to try the Covent Garden branch of Polpo - we'd taken Erika to the other one before and I vaguely recall her managing to find a few things to nibble on there. Unfortunately the door was a bit of a pain to get into, and for some reason Erika started crying as I was struggling to get the buggy over the threshold - I then lost my nerve at the sight of an otherwise childless and fairly quiet restaurant, so decided to just turn around and head straight back out again. I thought Erika had probably had enough at this point so just got in a taxi and headed in the direction of home.

As the taxi took us past the Houses of Parliament, I thought I'd check with Erika whether on the off chance she might want to go to our favourite playground in Victoria Tower Gardens. She of course said yes, and so I got the taxi to drop us off there, and she had a go on the swings, etc. After that we headed to the Pret a Manger on Horseferry Road, thinking I'd re-attempt lunch in a place where I wouldn't feel quite so bad if Erika made a bit of noise. I managed to find a pasta dish there which went down quite well with Erika, and after leaving there she fell asleep. From there we headed home, and just stayed in for the remainder of the day.
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Tidying Up
[Monday 29th December 2014]
I took the Dyson to the new flat in the afternoon for a thorough clean following the recent unpleasantness.

When I got back to the current flat, I did more tidying up there.

Chat history tells me I made a lasagne for dinner.
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...and back to London again
[Sunday 28th December 2014]
Headed back to London this morning to deal with the emergency at the new flat. Managed to get a first class upgrade, and almost had a carriage to ourselves, so it was actually quite a pleasant journey.

We arrived in London around 1pm, and I headed straight to the new flat, but we decided it probably best if Chie and Erika just go back to Pimlico. I ended up having to stay at the new flat for most of the day dealing with the issue, and it was generally all a bit depressing.
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Down to Devon
[Saturday 27th December 2014]
Got the train down to Devon to see Dad, Vera et al.

Today frankly did not go very well. At all.

We'd set off bright and early this morning, as we were keen to try and get to Devon by midday, so we could catch Alex and Alice, who'd been staying over Christmas and were planning to head off today, and also Robin who was dropping off Vera before heading back to South Wales. On arrival at Paddington though it soon became clear all was not well, engineering works had overrun and it seemed like no trains would be leaving there for at least a couple of hours. Thinking on our feat, we then rushed over to Waterloo, remembering there's also a service that goes from there to Paddington, albeit a slower one. We managed to get on a train there, and actually get seats too, but it got progressively more and more overcrowded en route, and lots of people seemed to be becoming rather bad tempered as a result, so it wasn't exactly the most pleasant of journeys.

We'd phoned ahead to let everyone in Devon know we'd be several hours later than planned, so alas we missed Alex, Alice and Robin altogether, which was really disappointing.

Still, on arrival, we did get to meet Lucy and Martin's baby for the first time, and it was of course lovely as ever to see Vera, who was going to be staying there for a few days. We had a late lunch / afternoon tea, and opened a few Christmas presents and it was all going rather well.

Dad said he was going to take Jess out for a walk, and me, Chie and Erika decided to go along with him. While we were out I received a rather upsetting email from the people in the flat above our new flat, which I soon realised meant that, frustratingly, we'd basically need to cut short our trip to Devon, and pretty much go straight back to London again to sort it out.

Having had a bit of an ordeal of a journey getting here, it really didn't seem fair on Erika to do any more traveling that day, so instead we decided to just stay the one night, and get an early train back the next morning.
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Boxing Day
[Friday 26th December 2014]
We'd had a chap from Wickes come round recently to give a quote for a bathroom refit at the new flat, and they'd suggested that we then go to the store soon after that to choose the particular fixtures and fittings we wanted. I decided in the end it might be a bit more effective to just delegate this task to Chie, on the basis I'd instead look after Erika for the morning, given that she's not really the sort of toddler who'll just sit quietly and patiently in her buggy while her parents are trying to have a long drawn out conversation in a shop.

So meanwhile I took Erika into the centre attempting to buy Christmas presents for all the people we hadn't seen over Christmas, and would be planning to see in Devon when we headed down there tomorrow. I ended up buying mostly books, not the book shops were among some of the only things open - whilst the more modern flashy department stores like Selfridges were open, the more traditional ones like Fortnum and Mason weren't.

Met up with Chie at Tibits for lunch, after which we swapped over parental duties so I could finish off my shopping.
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Christmas Day
[Thursday 25th December 2014]
Erika really seemed to enjoy opening her presents in the morning this year. Of course, it's bound to seem better than last year as I spent the whole day feverish and bedridden. That aside though, Erika really seems to be starting to understand the idea of presents and Christmas, and it was absolutely lovely to see her so full of glee this morning.

We also did the usual phoning around relatives, some of it via video conferencing this year.

Towards the end of the morning we headed out for a Christmas day stroll into the centre. We walked along the river, and stopped off at our favourite playground by the Houses of Parliament, before proceeding up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. We felt uncharacteristically touristy today, and posed for pictures on Horse Guards Parade, plus climbed up on the lions at Trafalgar Square.

I had rather hoped we'd be able to cap all that off with a Christmas Day pint at the Coach and Horses, which we'd been to on Christmas Day a few years back. But, alas, it was closed. As was every other pub I might have considered going to - the only ones which we saw open were the touristy ones around Trafalgar Square, which I wasn't really in the mood for.

So instead we slightly oddly had a quick lunch at Tokyo Diner (which apparently opens 365 days a year) before getting a very expensive taxi back home.

Had our proper Christmas dinner as an evening meal, which came out reasonably well.
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Christmas Eve
[Wednesday 24th December 2014]
I was working in the daytime, so Erika and Chie came to visit me for lunch.

Left work a bit early to do some final Christmas shopping, and in particular buying food for Christmas dinner (yes, I had left it a bit late) for which I ended up in the scrum at Marks and Spencer amongst all the thrifty middle aged ladies as the potatoes etc were being priced down at the end of the day.
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Quaint
[Tuesday 23rd December 2014]
Spent the daytime with Erika, she was originally meant to go to nursery today but had a spot of conjunctivitis (it went away by itself over the next couple of days) - one of the things they're a bit fussy about at nurseries in general, and ask that kids with it stay at home to avoid infection. So I took the day off to look after her, as Chie had already gone to work.

In the afternoon we went out for a bit to do some Christmas shopping, I hadn't actually managed to get a present for Chie yet, and so that was the main focus of the expedition.

In the evening I'd arranged to meet up with Andrew, and some other people from work (which actually ended up just being two ex-colleagues instead) for pre-Christmas drinks, which had been mandated to be extremely quaint. To that end I suggested a jaunt around Hampstead and Highgate. We started at the Holly Bush, which was the best of the lot actually, and really delivered on the quaint front extremely well. From there we progressed to the Spaniard's Inn, then the Flask in Highgate, and finally the Duke's Head in Highgate, which isn't really quaint at all, but had a Sacred Gin bar I wanted to try out.
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Monday
[Monday 22nd December 2014]
Both Chie and I went to work today, and this ended up being Erika's last day at nursery of the year.

After work, I went and picked Erika up from nursery, and rather bravely got on the tube with her to head up to the new flat, as we'd arranged to meet a builder there this evening to give us a quote on a new bathroom and one or two other things. I managed to leave work a bit early so probably avoided the absolute peak of it, and anyway I think things are quieter this week as some people were already off for Christmas.

On arrival at the nearest tube station to the new flat, Erika and I went and picked up Chinese takeaway, where the lady working there took a shine to Erika, and gave her a fortune cookie and a lolly (I slightly wished she hadn't given her the latter, as despite my best efforts to hide it Erika did not forget about it throughout dinner). The fortune cookie said something along the lines of "you will make lots of new friends in the coming months" which was exactly the sort of thing we wanted to hear given that we'd seen be moving to a new part of the city. The lady in the Chinese takeaway obviously recognised the fact we were new here and selected it from the appropriate barrel accordingly.

We took our Chinese takeaway back to the flat, where Chie met us a little while later, and then a bit after that the builders came to take a look around. I think it took a week or two before we got the quote back from these particular builders, but this was one of the worst we had - they'd just focused on two of the jobs we'd said we wanted doing, forgot all about the test, and quoted a really high amount for those two. Something like 3000 for the partition wall removal. A subsequent builder who came and quoted for this a few days later came up with an estimate of about half that (although I suspect largely just because on the site where I'd advertised the job that's what I entered my budget as) and then the final builders we actually got to do the work quoted half that again (although perhaps not an entirely fair comparison as they also did lots of other work for us, and I suppose there's some economy of scale in things like waste disposal).

Anyway, although this evening turned out to be a bit of a waste of our - and the builders' - time, it was sort of fascinating (in a disconcerting way) to see the wildly different figures quoted for the same bit of work.
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Sunday in Canterbury
[Sunday 21st December 2014]
Lunch in Canterbury with Leon and family before heading back to London.
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Hamley's and Canterbury
[Saturday 20th December 2014]
Went to Hamley's in the morning with Erika, then headed off to Canterbury in the afternoon for a sleepover at Leon and Yukari's house.
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Bathroom Appointment
[Friday 19th December 2014]
Went to the new flat to have someone come and talk about installing a new bathroom.
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Erika's Christmas Concert
[Thursday 18th December 2014]
Went to the Christmas Concert at Erika's nursery in the morning.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 17th December 2014]
Spaghetti Vongole for dinner.
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Tuesday
[Tuesday 16th December 2014]
Erika sitting in the corridor.
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Monday
[Monday 15th December 2014]
Erika doing some colouring in the evening.
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Sunday
[Sunday 14th December 2014]
Went to the new flat again to take measurements etc.
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