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:
Back to London
Last Day in Japan
Miyajima
Onsen
New Camera
Monday in Hiroshima
Lunch with Naoko-san et al
Suberidai
To Hiroshima
Curry with Andy
Breakfast with Mt. Fuji
Tuesday in Tokyo
Out with Andy
Sunday in Tokyo
Saturday in Tokyo
Off to Japan
Argos
Tweed Suit
Choosing a Tweed Suit
Super Mario
More Shopping

Back to London
[Saturday 15th February 2014]
Despite the fact we'd already experienced travel disruption thanks to the snow yesterday, we'd rather nonchalantly looked at the timetable for the coach service from the hotel to the airport last night and spent a while debating whether we should get on the recommended one, which under normal operating conditions would get us to the airport about three hours before our flight took off, or whether we should get the next one and enjoy an extra half an hour in bed.

As it happens that was rather a moot point, as the hotel gave us a call at just before 7 this morning to tell us the coach service had been completely cancelled because of the snow. This was the start of a rather challenging morning.

Our initial plan was to get a taxi to Tokyo station, and get the Narita Express train service from there. This plan had two drawbacks. The first of these drawbacks was that there were no taxis available from the hotel. All of the entrances to the Okura require going up or down a fairly large slope, and consequently the few taxi drivers that were actually out on the roads this morning were avoiding it. So we decided instead we'd just have to brave the elements and walk to the nearest subway station - Kamiyacho. This was no mean feat. There was at least a foot of snow on the ground, in the process of turning to slush as a result of the icy rain. Torrents were streaming down the road like the thaw of an arctic tundra, and to add to all of that we had over 50 kilos of checkin luggage, plus our hand luggage, plus Erika. Oh and we didn't have umbreallas. And one of the wheels on the really heavy suitcase was broken (not that it really made that much difference, as I was pretty much dragging it through the snow anyway) Although theoretically only a 5 minute walk, every single step was an ordeal. At one point I have to admit to having a rather ungentlemanly outburst, which did seem to help a bit. A kind American named Joshua who had also been staying at the Okura and was in a similar predicament did at least help Chie with one of her bags (as she was also carrying Erika) , for which I am very grateful.

It was very uplifting to get inside Kamiyacho station, and I felt reassured at that point that we were now in Tokyo's excellent subway and rail network, and no longer dependent on its rather flaky taxi drivers. That was all well and good until we got to Tokyo station, where a machine happily sold us tickets for the 8:30 Narita Express, only to then find out when we got to the platform that the service had been suspended.

Oh dear, I thought.

By this point, a bit like the pied piper, we were amassing a herd of other stranded foreigners along with Joshua, who were also trying to get to the airport, and were at a bit of a loss as to who one was expected to do so now. The JR staff were making themselves conveniently scarce at this point, and eventually we managed to talk to a man on the ticket gate who told us we should go to Nippori station, and try our chances on the Keisei line (a company which runs a rival train service to Narita). This seemed like a bit of a long shot to me - if the Narita Express was cancelled because of the snow then surely another train company following a similar route would be too - but we didn't have any other backup plan so, with our new entourage of foreigners in tow, we got the Yamanote line to Nippori.

On arrival at Nippori we were encouraged to see huge queues at the ticket machines, and the displays seemed to suggest the Keisei line was amazingly still running to Narita. After a while in the queue, a member of staff announced we could use our Narita Express tickets on the next service, and so we all got on (well actually we seemed to have lost the bulk of our gaggle of foreigners at this point, but hopefully they got on too).

It wasn't one of the fastest services to Narita, and it ended up rather crowded as you might expect, but it got us to the airport - amazingly at the scheduled time of 10:16 - well done Keisei. So we were at the checkin desk about an hour and 25 minutes before our flight was due to take off. Loads of time!

I felt a great sigh of relief after having checked in, and was pleasantly surprised that the flights didn't seem disrupted at all - it didn't seem to have snowed around Narita airport, it was just the area between there and Tokyo which was causing all the problems with the trains and coaches.

The actual flight was tedious and irritating as always - and I was already exhausted before we'd even boarded - but at least it was all on time, and Erika was very well behaved onboard.

We landed in London at something like 3:20 in the afternoon, and got on a 4:20 Heathrow Express. Paddington provided the beautiful welcome back to London which Heathrow never does, and from there we got a taxi back home, and were back in the flat around 5.

I managed to stay awake until about 7:30, just long enough to have a shower, unpack, put on a load of washing, and have dinner. Then I thought sod it and just went to bed.
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Last Day in Japan
[Friday 14th February 2014]
Last full day of this trip. We said our goodbyes to Jiji and Baba in the morning, and got the shinaksen from Hiroshima to Tokyo through a snowy Japan. It's normally a four hour journey - today it was more like 4 and a half because of the snow (the worst bit was between Kyoto and Nagoya, apparently). Two delayed trains in Japan in the same week!

Chie had been a bit worried about taking Erika on the shinkansen, as it's usually very quiet on board, and packed full of salarymen, who may not always be the most forgiving of a noisy toddler. As it happens I don't think she really bothered anyone - although a few times she pointed at the dozing man across the aisle from us and said (quite loudly) "nene!" (Japanese baby talk for "sleep"). The Observer effect in action.

On arrival at Tokyo station we got a taxi to our hotel - the Okura. It's quite a famous old hotel in Japan, particularly with foreign visitors. We'd decided to stay there this time as we'd noticed on a previous trip it was the last stop on the route for the coach service which goes to Narita Airport, having picked up at some of the big hotels. Since it stops a good 5 or 10 minutes at each hotel, being the last on the route meant we'd theoretically get almost half an hour extra sleep. Although, per tomorrow's entry, that turned out to be something of a moot point.

After checking in we met up with both Tanaka-san and Yuka-chan at the hotel - both of whom had very kindly braved the snowy conditions to come and meet us there. I went off to one of the hotel's bars with Tanaka-san for a bit (Bar Highlander) whilst the girls went for a wander round the hotel's shopping arcades. Tanaka-san left before the rest of us headed out for dinner, but nonetheless it was great to have an hour or two to quickly catch up over a drink or two.

For dinner, Chie had found a macrobiotic restaurant called Chaya, not too far away at Shiodome. As it turned out though getting there was a bit of a challenge, as taxis were starting to become reticent about coming to the Okura - all of the entrances have slopes to go up or down to get to, and the drivers were all a bit worried about getting stuck it seemed. We probably waited almost half an hour for a taxi in the end.

Dinner was then a short but sweet affair, as to be honest I was a bit worried about whether or not we'd be able to get back to the hotel again. Macrobiotic restaurants are often a good bet for having one or two vegetarian items on the menu - I'm still not really sure exactly how or why that's the case, but it seems the macrobiotic diet, whilst including fish, pretty much eschews meat. I had some seitan fritter things which weren't bad, and a cocotte which had a tiny amount of soy "meat" in it, and was mostly beetroot - but was pleasant enough nonetheless.

Again we had a bit of a wait for taxis on the way back, but managed to return to the hotel just before 9. We gave Erika a quick bath, and then went to sleep with some trepidation over what the morning would bring...
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Miyajima
[Thursday 13th February 2014]
Awoke this morning at the onsen hotel - Chie went for another visit to the communal bath whilst Erika and I continued to doze (thus accounting for the very sweet picture at the start of the day). After breakfast we checked out, got the shuttle bus back over the bridge to Obatake station on the mainland.

From there we got back on the Sanyo line, but rather than going all the way back to Hiroshima, we broke our journey to visit Miyajima.

The main purpose was to visit Chie's Grandma there, and we weren't really planning to do any of the usual touristy stuff. As it happened though we arrived just before midday, and thought Chie's Grandma would probably be having her lunch - and also Erika was having a nap. So I suggested we go and have a coffee at coffee shop I'd found whilst searching around for independent coffee shops in the Hiroshima area - called, simple enough, Miyajima Coffee. Whilst the espresso I had was perhaps a bit watery, I liked the atmosphere of the place, and they had a La Marzocco which suggests some level of seriousness to the whole endeavour. After that, we followed on our elevenses with a momiji manju and a cup of green tea at Fuji-ya, my favourite momiji manju producer on the island. It's great that these shops all seem to have a little seating area where you can sit down, enjoy a freshly made momiji manju straight from the production line (which you can also watch through a glass panel), and a cup of green tea, for the embarassingly cheap price of 100 yen. Amusingly tea and cake for four at Fuji-ya came to the princely sum of 400 yen (2.34 at the current exchange rate) - about the same price as a single coffee in the previous place.

From there we went to the nursing home to visit Chie's Grandmother. As on previous visits she was delighted to see Erika who in return was bubbly and lovely throughout the visit.

Headed back to the ferry port after that, and on the ferry back to the mainland we gave Erika her first ever momiji manju (I'd got an extra of the freshly baked ones when we'd been at Fuji-ya). She's probably a bit too young still to be having anything this sweet, but given that she is one quarter of Miyajima origin, it somehow seemed appropriate to make an exception. She rather liked it, of course.

Back on the mainland, at Miyajimaguchi (guchi means "gate"), we went to an udon place for a late lunch. As it was impossible to find any kind of liquid condiment there which didn't contain dashi, I ate mostly plain boiled udon, but with the addition of some vegetable tempura, some chopped spring onions, and some grated ginger, it was't too bad. Erika seems to really like udon at the moment - she's got pretty good at doing the "churuchuru" action, which is handy as it means she can still eat a piece even if you only get one end of it in her mouth.

Back at chez Moriwaki in the evening we had another tonyu nabe (soy milk hotpot) for dinner.
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Onsen
[Wednesday 12th February 2014]
Chie usually likes to plan a little excursion during a stay in Hiroshima. This time she arranged for us all (including Chie's Grandma) to go to an onsen on Yashiro Island, which we could get to via the local Sanyo line which runs along the coast in this part of Japan.

We set out in the afternoon. I think the train was only meant to take a bit over an hour, but as it happened we were stuck for something like 45 minutes in a little station called Fuju, the other side of Iwakuni, as a car had got trapped on a level crossing.

So it was about 5pm by the time we finally got to our hotel - a little shuttle bus came to pick us up at Obatake station, to take us over the green bridge that links Yashiro Island to the mainland.

Dinner was the usual lavish affair that we always seem to end up with in a ryokan, served in one of the rooms (although for some reason neither of the two rooms our group were staying in). By prior arrangement they'd made a pretty concerted effort to make a vegetarian version of the feast for me. There were a myriad of small dishes (I always feel sorry for whoever has to wash up when eating this kind of cuisine).

After dinner everyone else went for a dip in the communal baths - as is typically the case there are separate male and female baths, and Chie said it was a highlight of the whole trip to Japan to be able to go to the baths with four whole generations of her family - from Erika right up to Erika's Great Grandmother. I on the other hand though thought I'd just make use of the "rotenboru" (outdoor bath) we had attached to our room. I sat there in the hot water, with a beer, looking out across a dark sea back to the mainland.
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New Camera
[Tuesday 11th February 2014]
Chie, Erika and I headed into the centre of Hiroshima in the daytime today to do a bit of shopping. Mainly I wanted to get a new camera. All the pictures from the current one had started to look a bit hazy - particularly if I used the zoom at all.

This is probably one of the quickest camera purchases I've ever made - as we had Erika with us I didn't want to spent ages hanging around in the shop, so after some brief deliberation I basically just bought the newer model of the camera I already have - an Ixus (or Ixy as they call them in Japan) something or other.

For lunch we went to "Grazie Gardens" the Italian "famiresu" (family restaurant) Chie and I have historically always been quite fond of. It's interesting how inconsistent my food snobbery can be - I wouldn't be caught dead in a chain Italian restaurant in London now, but somehow in Japan it's OK. Of course part of our excuse now is that it's a bit harder to find child friendly restaurants in Japan. Indeed, this time we even ordered Erika something from the kids menu - a Japanese curry served on an Anpanman plate.

I switched over to my new camera whilst in there, hopefully from today onwards you can see the difference in picture quality.

I felt a bit sleepy after lunch - I don't think I ever fully recovered from jetlag for the whole two weeks of this trip. So as Erika had also dozed off, I took her and sat in a branch of Tully's (again, I wouldn't be seen dead in a chain coffee shop in London, but here there isn't really much of an alternative). I ordered a double espresso followed by a macchiato (both of which seemed to flummox the staff a bit - I don't think many people order coffee which actually tastes of coffee here).

We ended up staying in the centre of Hiroshima for the remainder of the afternoon, until Chie's Mum came to meet us, and we headed for an early dinner at Kura Sushi - the hi tech sushi place I'd enjoyed on our last trip to Japan. Whilst the vegetarian options are unsurprisingly a bit limited (basically tamago, inari sushi and kappamaki) I enjoyed the experience again, perhaps a little more so this time as Erika was able to eat a bit more too.
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Monday in Hiroshima
[Monday 10th February 2014]
Fairly quiet sort of a day in Hiroshima today. We headed out to the nearby giant mall complex (Aeon Mall or whatever it's called) towards the end of the morning, and did a bit of shopping, plus had a terrible coffee at the Tully's there (why on earth I thought the "mille feuille latte" would be a good idea to order I do not know. After that we went to Chie's Grandmother's house for a late-ish lunch, and Erika had another quick go on the slide.

In the evening Chie's parents teamed up to cook okonomiyaki - Hiroshima style of course - which was very good as always. Although Erika didn't really eat much of it because she'd filled herself up on edamame first.
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Lunch with Naoko-san et al
[Sunday 9th February 2014]
Went to Miyajimaguchi, to the house where Chie'a aunt and uncle (Naoko-san and Kazuyoshi-san) live. Their daughter Sato-chan, her husband Yamasaki-san, and their baby Kohei-kun were also there. Naoko-san produced a seemingly endless supply of food including tofu burgers and pizzas.

A little later on we were joined by Miho-san, a friend of Sato-chan's who had come with her on a visit to the UK almost 10 years ago (see here). We looked through Sato-chan's pictures from that trip together, which was fun.


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Suberidai
[Saturday 8th February 2014]
It seemed I had timed my departure from Tokyo rather well, as today there were news reports of travel chaos there, caused by a fairly severe snowstorm. There had been a bit of snowfall in Hiroshima too, but not enough to cause any major disruption.

I spent the morning catching up on my laundry after my week in Tokyo, and was pleased to be able to give my tweed suit a good airing out on the balcony - necessitated by all those smoky bars in Tokyo.

Ramen for lunch.

In the afternoon we went to visit Chie's Grandmother. She'd borrowed a slide from a friend for Erika to play with, and had set it up in one of the rooms of her house (it was a bit too cold to go outside). Erika seemed to really enjoy playing on it.

In the evening we had "agemono" for dinner - literally fried things. Chie had ordered some frozen vegetarian meat substitutes and we had some of those - kind of tonkatsu style "pork" cutlets, made from soy/seitan.
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To Hiroshima
[Friday 7th February 2014]
Last day working in the Tokyo office of this trip. Again this morning the skies were clear enough for me to see Mt. Fuji over breakfast - surprising really as quite a severe snowstorm was on its way.

Decided to leave the office a bit early so I wouldn't end up arriving in Hiroshima too late - it was a four hour journey on the shinkansen. For a change I thought I'd go from Tokyo station, rather than the usual Shinagawa, figuring as I hadn't yet booked a seat I might have a better chance of getting one here if I ended up having to queue for the unreserved seats, since this is where the service starts. As it happens I was able to get a reserved seat, albeit on a train departing a few minutes later than the one I was originally aiming for.

The journey was a bit boring to be honest, particularly as it was all in the dark so there wasn't much to look at out of the window. It was made slightly more bearable by some beer and sake.

I arrived in Hiroshima around 9, and got a taxi from the station to Chie's parent's house. I was actually quite pleased to discover Erika wasn't asleep yet - Chie had actually gone out for the evening, and apparently she hadn't responded too well to her grandparent's attempts to get her to go to sleep. So this meant I actually got to see her a little bit today, and I was able to take over the job of getting her to go to sleep.
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Curry with Andy
[Thursday 6th February 2014]
I rather wanted a rest this evening, but Andy seemed very persistent in wanting to go out again, and ultimately I caved in. We planned to go out for a curry - my thinking being that start off with dinner might help to curb the risk of any boozy excess. The initial place we'd chosen was full, so instead we went to Moti in Roppongi, where I'd been last year with Chie and Erika. When ordering indian food in the UK I live to have a few different dishes for the sake of variety (and to hedge against the risk of any one dish being a disappointment) - side dishes in particularly are usually priced accordingly as they expect people to do just this. In Japan though it seems to be the norm in Indian restaurants that each person just orders one curry dish with some rice or bread. Things like sag aloo seem to be considered main dishes. Not wanting to put all my eggs in one basket like this I decided this evening to go for a thali, but actually found it a bit of a disappointment - it just meant I ended up with three small curries which weren't quite what I wanted.

Anyway, that aside, we were joined there by Taku - the Canadian/Japanese guy we'd met at the vending machine bar on Monday - Andy had apparently got his business card, and invited him along.

None of us were keen for a night of the sort of calibre we'd had on Monday, so after we'd finished our curries, we just went for a quiet drink at OFFICE, the office themed bar in Gaienmae I've been to a few times before.
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Breakfast with Mt. Fuji
[Wednesday 5th February 2014]
Was treated to wonderfully clear skies this morning, and ate breakfast with a view of Mt. Fuji.

In the evening I met up with Andy again, and we decided to make a second attempt to go to Gen Yamamoto (it had been closed on Monday) - the cocktail bar I'd heard about from a few different sources recently, so decided I had to try out.

It's nothing like any other cocktail bar I've been to - rather than just ordering the classics, here the done thing is to order one of the "omakase" tasting menus and let Yamamoto-san (who seems to be both owner and sole member of staff at this bar) choose the drinks for you.

There's a big focus here on seasonal ingredients, and all of the drinks in the tasting menu contain an interesting and unusual seasonable Japanese fruit or vegetable. The fruit/vegetable themes of our drinks ranged through ginger, kiwi fruit, a Japanese citrus fruit whose name I forget, winter tomato, white pumpkin and kumquat. He used a range of different bases from Spanish gin, through some Japanese sake and sho chu, Lithuanian rye vodka (!) to finally Yamazaki whisky. The real standout drink for me was the winter tomato with the Lithuanian vodka, flavoured with shiso - I suppose you could say this was a take on a bloody mary, but was quite a departure - wonderfully sweet and fragrant. However I enjoyed all of them.

After the cocktails we thought we should probably have something to eat (we didn't ever really get round to that on Monday) so mainly as it was close by, we decided to go for a return visit to Savoy pizzeria, and this time ate in. The pizza was excellent again and it was great to watch it being made in front of us - particularly how impressively quickly it cooks in their giant wood fired oven, which rather dominates the tiny restaurant.

Rounded the evening off at a British pub called The Tippler's Arms. Not much to write home about really.
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Tuesday in Tokyo
[Tuesday 4th February 2014]
Very tired again today, and decided I should have a much quieter evening this evening to compensate. So I just stayed at the office until about 7:30, then went back to my hotel for a Skype video chat with Chie and Erika. Erika seemed very happy there.

I just popped out briefly in the evening as I had a craving for a veggie burger (I had in fact also eaten dinner at the office, but it was quite a light meal and I was still hungry). After a bit of searching about on the web, I found the Freshness Burger chain have a veggie burger, and there was a branch about a 10 minute walk away. It had been unseasonably warm the first few days of the trip, but today had turned much cooler (in fact it snowed in the afternoon). So the walk there and back was a decidedly frosty one. The actual veggie burger wasn't bad (when is a veggie burger ever great?) but fell foul of the standard problem with veggie burgers: it completely fell apart pretty as soon as I picked it up, and quickly turned into a big mess.

Spent the remainder of the evening getting my blog up to date.
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Out with Andy
[Monday 3rd February 2014]
Unsurprisingly overslept a bit as a result of Erika being awake half the night. I headed off to the office in the morning, and in doing so waved goodbye to the girls - they were heading off to Hiroshima today and I wouldn't see them now until Friday night. I don't really like being away from Erika for more than a few hours now, but I know she'll have a lovely time with her grandparents, and will be very well looked after.

Was quite bleary eyed all day at the office, but managed to get some work done regardless.

In the evening I went for drinks with Andy - we started off in the bar in the building where he works on the other side of Roppongi, then from there proceeded to the Old Imperial Bar at the Imperial Hotel for a couple of cocktails. Then the irresistible lure of the vending machine bar in Yurakucho beckoned, and we essentially spent most of the rest of the evening there. We got talking to lots of people while we were there, including a group of Japanese salarymen, and a Canadian man - who we ended up getting in a taxi to go to another bar somewhere, but then he realised he'd left his bag behind in the vending machine bar, so we went back there instead. It's a demonstrably hard place to leave.
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Sunday in Tokyo
[Sunday 2nd February 2014]
It was obviously a bit naive of us to have any expectation Erika might sleep through the night - she woke up at 1:30am, and we couldn't get her back to sleep again until about 4:30am.

Consequently we all slept until about 2pm - the blinds in the hotel room are perhaps a bit too effective.

Again our original plans for the afternoon had fallen through (lots of people we know in Japan seem to be ill at the moment!). So w went out for a late lunch in Aoyama, at a vegan cafe attached to an Aveda Cosmetics shop. It was OK I suppose. We spent a little while after that ineffectually wandering around trying to find a cafe that would do latte art (how frustrating it is to not have internet access on my mobile now!), before eventually deciding to just head back in the direction of our hotel. It was quite a nice walk actually, through some interesting little backstreets.

In the evening we went out again, for some of Chie's friends from university (Yummipe, Masahi-san and Yuki-san) in a restaurant which had a nice view over Tokyo station - the picturesque side.

I left a bit earlier as Erika had fallen asleep, and I thought I'd be able to just take her back to the hotel and put her to bed. Alas instead she woke up when I got back, and we had another very frustrating night where we couldn't get her to go to sleep for hours. She was making quite a lot of noise too - sometimes singing, other times she'd start crying, and I was quite worried we were annoying other guests at the hotel. Oh well, not much we could do about it really.
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Saturday in Tokyo
[Saturday 1st February 2014]
We landed at Narita just before 9 in the morning, got the Narita Express to Tokyo, and were able to get through the airport in about an hour. We took the Narita Express from there to Shinagawa, where auntie Yuka met us at the station, and came with us to Roppongi. As on previous trips I'd be working in Tokyo for the first week, and had chosen again to stay at the Grand Hyatt, because it's just so convenient for my office.

We managed to checkin at midday (in spite of the best efforts of a porter who rather unhelpfully ambuhsed us on our way in, wrestled our luggage off us, and try to persuade us to come back at 3pm). The porter was soon forgotten when we got to the room, and there were lots of little nice touches waiting for us. Without me having to say anything this time they'd given me a room on the 6th floor (the most convenient for getting to my office, I don't even need to go to the ground floor from there), and had also remembered some of my requests from previous visits - there was an iron waiting in the cupboard and some interdental brushes in the bathroom. Oh and they left out some delicious strawberries for us, and couple of other little boxes with sweet things in too.

We went for lunch at nearby stalwart Chien Fu, the incredibly convenient vegetarian Chinese restaurant, just a few minutes from the hotel. Their lunch set is very good value - I had a sort of mock beef thing in a peppery sauce, which was quite tasty.

After that I had my now traditional jetlag afternoon nap for a couple of hours, whilst the girls went out and did a bit of shopping (Chie managed to borrow a buggy apparently, in which Erika dozed quite contentedly).

In the evening our original plans had fallen through, so instead I got Andy to come over to our hotel, and we went and picked up some beers and pizzas (from a little pizzeria called Savoy which only has two items on the menu - margherita or marinara - both very good). We took them back to our room to eat. I thought that be a bit easier than eating in a restaurant, as Erika was probably feeling quite tired and disoriented by this point, which could lead to a bit of a scene.

After giving Erika a bath and reading her a bedtime story, I headed out for a couple more drinks with Andy at the old stalwart the Hobgoblin.
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Off to Japan
[Friday 31st January 2014]
As always, we were still packing this morning, we got up around 7, and left the flat around 9. We had spent some time deliberating over how best to get to the airport this time, attempting to optimise cost / speed / convenience. In the end we decided on the somewhat tried and tested method of a taxi to Paddington, then the Heathrow Express from there.

After checking in and going through security there was just time for a quick snack, and a visit to the children's room for Erika to have a play in the soft play area.

Premium Economy was half empty today (frustratingly it can often be full when economy in near deserted, making me thing I've wasted the extra money, as you can spread out when there are empty seats). So we sat in the three seats in the middle at the front, meaning Erika could have her own seat (although most of the time we used that for storage).

As is often the case, the first half of the flight seemed to go quite quickly, but the second half really dragged, and I started to get quite irritable. It's a combination of being tired, bored, and the fact they switch the lights off a couple of hours in. As someone who has never been able to sleep on a plane that means a rather miserable few hours sitting in a dark cabin. Keeping Erika entertained (and preventing her from hurting herself when clambering about on the chair) felt exhausting at the time - I had this constant fear that any minute now she would start screaming and everyone on the plane would hate us. Actually though in hindsight she was really good, there were only a couple of teary fits - there was another slightly older toddler who made much more noise throughout the flight than she did. She even slept for a couple of hours - including impressively towards the end of the flight, and stayed asleep through the landing (but then woke up again when we were on the ground).

I managed to watch The Great Gatsby in short batches, in between keeping Erika entertained. I can't say I really enjoyed it. There didn't actually seem to be a lot of substance to the story, and I very quickly tired of Leonardo DiCaprio saying "old sport" all the time.
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Argos
[Thursday 30th January 2014]
Did a bit of last minute shopping today for things to entertain Erika on the flight to Japan tomorrow. We'd spent some time downloading various things for Erika to watch from iPlayer (in particular some episodes of In The Night Garden but it occurred to me today she might not actually be that interested without the sound. So after a quick look on the web to see if toddler headphones were even a thing that existed, I discovered they had some in Argos. Argos was a bit of a revelation today actually - I've generally turned my nose up at it, but found they're actually incredibly convenient as you can order things online and pick them up in store just a few minutes later - perfect for these sorts of last minute requirements. I also picked up for her a Makka Pakka (one of the characters from In The Night Garden - my personal favourite in fact), a sort of drawing pad thing, and a multi headphone adaptor so we could listen tp the same thing at the same time.

As it happened in the end Erika wouldn't keep the headphones on for more than a few seconds, and with all the noise and distractions of the plane didn't seem that keen on watching TV, but anyway, getting the headphones today helped abate the anxiety of having to keep a small child entertained and quiet for 12 soild hours, and I'm sure they'll be useful at some point in the future.

Cobbled together a macaroni cheese for dinner, keen to use up various odds and ends in the fridge and not buy anything new as we'd be flying off the next morning. As always we left at least half our packing to the actual morning we were flying.
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Tweed Suit
[Wednesday 29th January 2014]
Received my finished tweed suit this morning (they'd just done the leg length on the trousers), and couldn't wait to try it on. I liked it so much I kept it on for the rest of the day at the office. As you can probably imagine, it evoked a few comments, although for the large part they were very positive ones.

Also got my hair cut towards the end of the day - I went to a different barber this time, one close to my office with a couple of Italian guys who seemed more interested in watching Deal or No Deal than paying any real attention to my hair. I followed that with a quick pint to give my suit it's first public appearance - although the residents of Belgravia are of course no stranger to tweed.
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Choosing a Tweed Suit
[Tuesday 28th January 2014]
I had got this rather ridiculous idea into my head that I wanted to get a three piece tweed suit for our upcoming trip to Japan. I'm not really sure of the rationale - Tokyo can hardly be described as rural, and tweed isn't exactly de rigeur in the landing of the rising sun. Nonetheless though, my mind seemed to be set on it.

So around lunchtime I popped down to Fulham, to a shop called Walker Slater, who specialise in tweeds, and carry a pretty good range of ready to wear tweed suits. I initially narrowed it down to something in the brownish or greyish range of the tweed spectrum (I already own a couple of greenish tweed jackets), and based on what they actually had available in my size, quickly whittled it down further to a choice of three - one very restrained grey suit, one rather outlandish checked brown affair and one that was somewhere roughly in the middle. I didn't want anything too plain - what's the point of having a tweed suit if you're not going to stand out at least a bit - but at the same time didn't want to go too overboard either. So I went for the middle option - see tomorrow's entry for a picture. It's a sort of brownish colour with a hint of green, and orange and a fainter dark purple overcheck. What a fun time I had.
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Super Mario
[Monday 27th January 2014]
Erika looking a bit like one of the Super Mario brothers.
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More Shopping
[Sunday 26th January 2014]
Went back into the centre to do a bit more shopping this afternoon. A couple of hours in we felt in need of a sit down and a coffee. We briefly considered the famous Kaffeine, but it looked hipstery and not very welcoming to small children, so instead we proceeded a little further up the same street to Scandinavian Kitchen, and were very glad we did, as it was rather lovely in there.

Made another moussaka for dinner this evening.
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