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:
- Bars Rather Than Pubs
Bloomsbury and El Vino
Indiana Jones: Odd Good, Even Bad
The Cat Returns and Raiders of the Lost Ark
So Apparently Dylan Thomas Wasn't A Very Nice Man
To the Provinces
Entertaining the Boss
Back to the East
Dentists and Cocktails
London Pub Tour with Yoko-san and Shinichiro-san
East London Thames Pubs
St. Blaise's Day
Out for a Walk
- Bars Rather Than Pubs
- [Friday 27th February]
After the usual beer-and-pizza thing one of my colleagues suggested we go to a cocktail bar he'd found near the office called Bank, or perhaps Zander, or maybe something else).
In the last few months I've definitely developed a bit of a taste for dry martinis - I think I can trace the start of this back to one particular evening last year, and the theme was continued on my trip to New York in November.
This evening I tried a Martini with Plymouth Gin, although I think the variation in the other ingredients and the style of making it means it is hard to give a fair comparison with my usual choice of gin (Hendrick's).
Later on we decided to try out a bar that another of my colleagues has mentioned a few times, which required the rather bold step of going South of the river - something I have only done a handful of times in the last two-and-a-bit years of living in London. It wasn't actually too bad, particularly as we got a taxi door-to-door both ways so didn't have to spend much time at all on the streets. It's always nice to see the river by night and we got a great view of an illuminated Houses of Parliament on the way there.
The bar itself - a place called Micro Bar - was quite interesting, a really good range of international beers. I went for a very light and refreshing pilsner, whose name escapes me.
- Bloomsbury and El Vino
- [Thursday 26th February]
I didn't really feel like going home at the end of the working day, so instead set out from the office and went for a meandering stroll through London. Past Buckingham Palace, along the Mall, over Trafalgar Square, up St. Martin's Lane, past Covent Garden, through Holborn and to Bloomsbury.
In the book I have on Historic London Pubs I'd recently been leafing through looking for pubs I haven't been to yet, and noticed I have pretty much neglected the area around Bloomsbury, despite having thoroughly mined Holborn and other nearby areas.
So tonight I took a look at The Queen's Larder, (the Queen in question being Charlotte, wife of King George III) and the Lamb on Lamb's Conduit Street. Both were similar in a sense - genuinely old, 18th century ish pubs, but neither was treated like a museum and were popular and bustling like any other central London pub. I guess that's a good thing really - that's what these places need to keep going.
I thought a spot of dinner was in order, so I wandered in the direction of Holborn and found one of those vegetarian Chinese buffet places, which was very satisfying as always. At the table next to me were a group of French people - I presume they'd wandered in without realising it was an entirely vegetarian place. France of course is not a country synonymous with vegetarianism, and they are in fact incapable of enjoying any food unless an innocent animal has been molested and tortured in order to produce it. They probably keep an emergency goose in their hotel room which they would later go back and strangle a bit just to even things up.
To round the evening off, I suddenly came across the idea of going to El Vino on Fleet Street which I had been to once before, four or five years ago. Whilst primarily a wine bar, I remembered that they had a few of their own bottlings of whisky there too. So I thought I'd give that a go. They obviously don't sell their whisky very often - it was an odd choice of glass for a start (a tall straight glass, and not a copita in sight), and the people behind the bar didn't seem to know anything about it - but undeterred I tried their Islay (a Bunnahabhain) and their Orkney (a Highland Park).
The Islay was a bit of a disappointment - it was extremely heavily sherried, which for a subtle and lightly peated Islay like Bunnahabhain just killed it for me. There was perhaps a tiny hint of something leathery there, which I've picked up previously in sherried Port Ellens - so I presume that to derive from a reaction between peat and sherry, but that aside I'd never have known it was an Islay malt at all.
The Highland Park fared somewhat better though - notes of breakfast cereals and grilled mochi (Japanese rice cakes) with all the usual balance and richness you come to expect from the unfailingly great Orkadian giant. El Vino also sell their whiskies by the bottle and I was pleasantly surprised to see how cheap this was - less than 30 quid, which isn't bad for an 18 year old Highland Park (the regular distillery bottling at that age is usually in the region of 45). So I couldn't resist taking a bottle home.
- Indiana Jones: Odd Good, Even Bad
- [Wednesday 25th February]
Continuing in last night's theme we watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom tonight. Whilst it was still quite entertaining, and obviously a million times better than the Crystal sodding Skull, it really wasn't quite on the same level as Raiders of the Lost Ark.
By coincidence I had watched The Last Crusade fairly recently on the TV, which I think I like almost as much as Lost Ark, which has led me to believe that there is in fact a pattern here - the odd numbered films are good, the even numbered films are bad. If Harrison can be persuaded to do one more before chronic arthritis prevents him using a bull whip than there could still be a hidden gem waiting for Indiana Jones fans.
I'd like to propose Indiana Jones and the Failing Economy in which he runs around and beats up people from the financial industry, leading up to the climactic scene in the film were all the banks collapse. Clearly not that strong of a link with archaeology, but then that didn't really seem to be a problem in the Crapstal Skull.
- The Cat Returns and Raiders of the Lost Ark
- [Tuesday 24th February]
The repercussions of yesterday's regrettable mail, and the previous week's general crappiness, continued to rebound at work today, to the extent that I was extremely keen to leave the office bang on time at 5:30, and was also adamant that I had something to take my mind off work altogether in the evening.
To this end I decided to go and buy some DVDs, and after some searching around discovered a little HMV store tucked away in Victoria station which satisfied this requirement admirably.
I bought a Ghibli film I hadn't seen before called The Cat Returns, along with two very reasonably priced boxsets (both 15 quid): the first three (i.e. non-crap) Indiana Jones films, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
I ordered in pizza for the full effect, and we had a delightfully lazy and escapist evening stuffing our faces and turning our brains off.
We watched The Cat Returns first, which like pretty much every other Ghibli film I've seen was utterly charming and visually stunning. In parts it was strongly reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, only with all the characters apart from Alice replaced with Cats. I like to imagine the script writer leafing through Lewis Carrol's well known book and at every page thinking "say, what about making that a cat instead...?"
After that, I was still very much in the mood for more cinematic escapism, and so watched Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I have to admit that having loved these movies as a kid, but having been utterly appalled at the abomination that was Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull last year, I experienced more than a little trepidation before putting this film on - I couldn't help but wonder if I was about to completely ruin a childhood memory. Luckily that turned out not to be the case, and the film stood the test of time extremely well - it is probably just as entertaining today as it was when I watched it when I was 8 years old. Which only goes to make me even more confused about why the Crystal bloody Skull was just so bloody awful.
Anywho, a very effective way to take my mind of the worries of the world - many thanks Harrison and co.
- So Apparently Dylan Thomas Wasn't A Very Nice Man
- [Monday 23rd February]
A somewhat regrettable day at work - following the particularly crappy week I'd had last week I sent one of those emails you immediately regret. That said, the truth be told I was really quite considerably fed up indeed, and there has to be some kind of outlet for that sort of thing - I cant help but think it is better to directly tell the people who have annoyed you what they've done wrong, as opposed to randomly losing your temper on some entirely unrelated person at a later date. So, it happened, it'll probably reflect badly on me, but it had to happen - just one of those things I suppose.
In the evening we watched a film Chie had got from Love Film called The Edge of Love. It was a wartime drama about two women, and, oddly enough, Dylan Thomas. Other than knowing he's a Welsh poet my knowledge of him was very limited indeed, and, having assumed him to be revered by the Welsh in a similar way to how the Scottish look upon wee Rabbie Burns I was quite surprised to learn that, at least in the way he was portrayed in this film, that he was actually something of a git... but then I suppose Burns was far from perfect as well - he was, similar to Thomas, a serial womaniser, and considered going off to Jamaica to work as a slave driver. What an interesting quality it is, being a talented poet, that your other wrongdoings in life will be so easily overlooked.
- More Family
- [Sunday 22nd February]
Started the day with breakfast in our third room at the hotel. Then checked out and headed over to Mum's where we spent the morning largely out in the garden. There's a ceramic barrel in Mum's garden, with a little hole in the top. When we were kids, Adrian had dropped a packet of my chewing gum in there. I'd fished it out once before a few years back, and felt it was somehow fitting to do this once again with Adrian there. You'll be relived to hear I put it back again afterwards.
Lunch was a Sunday roast at Mum's. After lunch spent a while playing with the kids - including a game of Bingo! Some time after 3 we sad our goodbyes, and got a lift to East Midlands Parkway with Adrian.
On the train back to London the seat reservations screwed up again. Bloody East Midlands trains.
- [Saturday 21st February]
Quite an eventful day in the Midlands:
Started with breakfast at the hotel, then Chie and I went for a walk around the village in the morning.
Had lunch at Mum's with Adrian, Liz and the kids, followed by an afternoon walk around Elvaston Castle.
In the evening, had dinner at Mum's, and then went to the Cross Keys (the pub our family used to run) with Adrian after dinner.
Ended up having a late night hotel tour - we changed rooms twice owing to assorted irritating noises which prevented us from sleeping.
- To the Provinces
- [Friday 20th February]
Had originally booked the afternoon off as we'd planned to go up to the Midlands for the weekend. In the end though, given the week I'd had, I decided to take whole day off.
Got the train to Midlands in afternoon. As always when travelling with East Midlands trains our seat reservations were screwed up.
In the evening we had dinner with Mum and Keith at the Donington Manor Hotel, where we were going to be staying for the weekend.
- [Thursday 19th February]
Another crappy day at week in a generally very crappy week.
Felt like a bit of pointless extravagance to take my mind off it, so went for champagne at the Ebury wine bar with a couple of people from the office. After that tried out a pub none of us had been to before called the Warwick. Then went to an Italian restaurant for some pizza.
Made mistake of checking work email on way home which left me in a foul mood.
- [Wednesday 18th February]
In the daytime had an extremely brief and fairly demoralising performance review with manager. Ho, hum.
Considered going out for dinner with Chie but instead we ended up just having a bag of chips. Stood outside the chip shop to eat them which appeared to attract a lot of customers - there was a whole crowd joining us by the time wed finished. Should have asked for an advertising fee.
- [Tuesday 17th February]
Dad was passing through London just for a couple of hours this evening, so we had a chance to meet up briefly.
We started off with a quick drink at the whisky society then went to Carluccio's for a spot of dinner. Back at home I had dinner number 2 with Chie (she made gnocchi).
- Entertaining the Boss
- [Monday 16th February]
The engineering director for my project was in London for the first half of this week and tonight was the designated evening for the team to go out for dinner with him.
We started off with a quick beer at the St. George's Tavern which I think I can say with some authority has now been installed as our default after work pub. Herein we went through the often difficult process of coming to a consensus about what to eat - luckily in this instance that wasn't too taxing, and we settled on Chinese. So I suggested Kym's - my favourite Chinese restaurant in the local area. That seemed to be quite well accepted.
To our slight surprise the eng director was even keen to come along for a final drink at another pub afterwards - The Cardinal which is a nice old Sam Smith's pub, again in the local area.
- Back to the East
- [Sunday 15th February]
East London seems to have been featuring in my weekends a lot recently (well, twice) - probably because this is the area both Chie and I have, quite frankly, always avoided until now.
Interestingly just the other day Jeremy Paxman was on the telly talking about the Victorian era as seen through a series of works of art. One thing that stuck in my mind was the description of East London in Victorian times - for those living in the West of the city it was seen as a foreign and terrifying realm into which they feared to venture. The French artist Gustave Doré was fascinated by this and went on several forays to draw and paint scenes from East London, but always went with a police escort.
Whilst obviously the East London of today does not quite display the same level of lawlessness and squalor as was the case in the 19th century, the contrast with the West is still fairly sharp.
However, amidst all of that, there are some nice things dotted about in East London, as last weekend's pub exploratory can attest. So in a similar vein Chie wanted to visit the Columbia Road flower market today. Getting to this involved getting off at Whitechapel (which for me will always me inextricably linked to Monopoly) and then walking through some slightly less savoury parts of the capital. Once we actually arrived at the flower market though there was a sudden and very pronounced change of character - the endless fried chicken purveyors were now replaced with fashionable and colourful little boutiques selling all manner of crappy nik naks I would never want. The market itself was vaguely interesting I suppose, albeit a tad overcrowded for my liking, and we didn't actually buy anything.
After that we headed in the direction of Old Street to visit the Geffrye museum, which had an exhibition on interior design throughout the ages. I determined from this, from a decor point of view, I would have been happiest living in the mid 1700s.
For lunch we originally considered going for some Vietnamese food in the little Vietnamese district around Old Street, but none of the menus really grabbed us (particularly in the vegetarian department) so we fell back to plan B, and went to Square Pie in Spitalfields market.
After that we decided a quick drink might be in order, so we gave Dirty Dicks near Liverpool a go. It was a bit middle of the road in my book - it had low hanging beams, exposed brickwork, and barrels everywhere; these were all clearly plus points. On the downside though there was a big TV with the rugby on, and a cluster of fruit machines - plus the clientèle all seemed very transient, and the staff were a tad on the frosty side. So I guess I'll file this one in the "passable" category.
We headed back home after that, stopping off at Sainsbury's to pick up things for dinner. We had a sort of middle eastern meal featuring grilled halloumi and some giant Lebanese flatbreads, which was all rather nice.
- Valentine's Day
- [Saturday 14th February]
I've never really been much of a fan of Valentine's Day, but like most people feel some nagging compulsion to at least make a bit of an effort on behalf of my other half.
So it was the usual flowers (orange roses, very tasteful), nice meal (cooked a lasagne at home) and bottle of wine - we'd had a bottle of Veuve Cliquot Rosé hanging around in the fridge for some time, and now seemed as good an occasion as any other to open it.
Other than that it was a pretty lazy and uneventful day really - Chie didn't leave the flat at all, and I just popped out for a pint of milk.
- [Friday 13th February]
I can't pretend I'm not at least a bit superstitious, and Friday 13th always does make me a little nervous. Still, today was uneventful to the point of being really quite boring.
Chie went to her Hiroshimakenjinkai in the evening, and I just went to the usual beer-and-pizza thing for a couple of beers before going home.
My recent RSI problem is definitely improving somewhat, but I'm still trying to avoid using the laptop much in the evenings and at weekends. So in the absence of anything better to do I spent a very boring evening in watching telly. Which, with the exception of QI, was really quite crap.
- Working Late
- [Thursday 12th February]
Chie went out with some people from work this evening, and I ended up working late - stayed at the office until about 9PM.
When I got home we'd both already sort of eaten but were both still peckish, so I ignored the usual propaganda about not eating cheese late at night (apparently gives you nightmares?) and made some cheese on toast.
- Dentists and Cocktails
- [Wednesday 11th February]
Spurred on by my bout of worry last night, I finally got around to going to the dentist today - I went once in 2006 when we were living in Japan, but haven't been back since. It was a mixed verdict - apparently my gums are in quite poor state, although there were lots of things that could be done to prevent that getting any worse. On the plus side my actual teeth are actually in pretty good condition considering - there's just one that I might want to think about having a small filling for, although it isn't urgent. I've always been quite lucky in that regard, having never had a proper filling in all my life, just one small "cap" or whatever you call it.
I also fit in an appointment with the hygienist and have to say even after a very quick 20 minute going over my teeth already look considerably better... Apparently though they want me to go back 4 times in the next couple of weeks...?!?!
I have always particularly disliked going to the dentists so I found the whole thing a bit traumatic today. As a result I decided I needed cheering up in the evening, and persuaded a colleague to go out for a couple of drinks. We started with a pint at the Red Lion on Crown Passage street, a charming little pub down an alleyway near St. James's Palace, but it was quite busy so we only stayed for the one.
As it happens this was the same colleague with whom I'd had a fun night out in New York last year, which culminated in the rather questionable decision to go to a cocktail bar and have Martinis. So I suppose as a bit of an homage to that event I suggested we go to the cocktail bar atop the Waterstone's on Piccadilly, wherein we had a "St. James's Martini" each. Which was nice.
Didn't stay very late, so I decided to just walk back to the flat from there. I had the proverbial bag of chips on the way home.
- [Tuesday 10th February]
Don't remember very much about today, but do remember being filled with a sense of worry and gloom that I couldn't really put my finger on. I think in hindsight it may have been a combination of financial worry (I have a strange feeling there's about to be a repeat of the unpleasant incidence of last October in that regard), plus also concern over my teeth, as I'd been putting off going to the dentists since I got back from Japan.
- London Pub Tour with Yoko-san and Shinichiro-san
- [Monday 9th February]
I love nights out based on very tenuous connections. Tonight was the epitome of that - our friend Junchan had heard that friends of a friend of hers were coming to London for a week, and so they'd been put in touch with us so we could show them round a bit one evening during their stay.
They turned out to be quite fascinating people - they were a recently married couple, and the chap was a gentleman's tailor, and as you might expect a very dapper dresser. They were here partly as a holiday, but partly as he had some business on Saville Row. It was really great to have an opportunity to talk to people from such an entirely different profession like that.
I went for the tried and tested formula of a night out when entertaining foreign dignitaries - a tour of some of my favourite pubs. We started off at the Black Friar, where we also had a spot of dinner, then proceeded from there to the Old Bank of England, followed by the Cittie of Yorke and finally Ye Old Mitre.
Shinichiro-san was very complimentary about by new tweed jacket (although I wonder if he may have just felt compelled to say something nice, as it is the sort of garment that demands some kind of commentary), and I also enjoyed a long chat with the landlord at the Mitre, who appears to be something of a kindred spirit, and we compared notes on our favourite London pubs (of course, the Mitre being top of the list).
- East London Thames Pubs
- [Sunday 8th February]
Chie went out to meet a friend in the daytime today, so I spent a very pleasant afternoon exploring some of the great pubs to be found by the Thames in East London.
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Went to five pubs in total - the Angel and the Mayflower on the South bank, and then the Captain Kidd, the Prospect of Whitby and the Grapes on the North bank.
To my embarrassment I hadn't really realised that there are no bridges over the Thames downstream of Tower Bridge, and the next place to cross the river on foot is the Greenwich foot tunnel which I think is about 5 miles from Tower Bridge. So I'd rather naively started progressing East along the South bank, and after visiting those first two pubs, thought I'd just carry on until I found a place to cross.
Eventually I got to a place on the river where I was across the river from Canary Wharf, and it had started to get very residential indeed - the edge of the world as far as I was concerned. So I had to make the difficult decision of cutting my losses, and at least partially going back on myself, to get to Canada Water. I then got the tube from there to Canary Wharf, and the DLR from there to Limehouse, where I resumed my walk.
I think the first and the last where my favourites - the Angel and the Grapes - these were both very much still "real" pubs which looked like they had real locals. The ones inbetween were notably more touristy, but I guess all still interesting pubs in their own right. Every single one of the five was right on the river, and every single one had a back patio or a deck looking out over the water, which - given the time of year - I had largely to myself.
A very pleasant to wile away an afternoon alone.
- Tweed Jacket
- [Saturday 7th February]
Yes that's right, today I finally bought that tweed jacket I'd had my eye on for some time. I am very happy with it.
- [Friday 6th February]
Long day at the office, but worthwhile, managed to bring the bigwigs round to my way of thinking.
In the evening made a very quick bolognese sauce to go with linguini.
- [Thursday 5th February]
Chie made okonimyaki for dinner in the evening.
- [Wednesday 4th February]
Don't ask me why I went to Ramsgate today. I'm not even sure myself.
Consider it a spiritual journey if you like.
- St. Blaise's Day
- [Tuesday 3rd February]
My favourite Saints day of the year, St. Blaise the patron saint of throats.
I went to St. Etheldreda's church today, but didn't quite have the courage to actually go in, not being a catholic and all that.
Instead popped to Ye Old Mitre, then met up with chie at the whisky society. We had dinner at Smith's of Smithfields followed by a stress relieving hour or so of karaoke at the Karaoke Box in Smithfields. A much needed fun evening.
- [Monday 2nd February]
I probably don't need to tell you it snowed in London today.
I'm not really in the mood for waxing lyrical (and more to the point have developed quite severe RSI this week) so instead just go and look at the pictures.
- Out for a Walk
- [Sunday 1st February]
Went out for a walk by myself in the afternoon as Chie had gone to have tea with a friend. Was a bit of a disaapointment really.
- Tokyo Exhibition
- [Saturday 31st January]
Not all that great, with the exception of the drumming.
Met up with Mika-san and Byron there, and went for a late lunch and a drink or two with them afterwards.