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:
- Good Friday
Drinks with Mark
New Fridge Freezer
Chinese with Dad and Janie
Drinks with Rob and Kate
Yuka back to Japan
Waiting for Stuff
Abergavenny and Bath
Monday in Edinburgh
Sunday in Edinburgh
Saturday in Edinburgh
Lunch at the Cross Keys
Yuka and Miho's Sushi
Monday in Paris
Sunday in Paris
Saturday in Paris
- Good Friday
- [Friday 25th March]
Dutifully soldiered on and worked for a large part of the day, despite knowing everyone else in the world had the day off... Finally threw in the towel about 3 or 4, and decided to go for a drive (and hopefully a walk) with Chie. Didn't find anywhere particularly inspiring, took a short walk around some place called horseshoe lake (?!) and then went to a supermarket to buy things for dinner. Had tempura for dinner, which was really very good, although I felt very unhealthy afterwards. That's about it really.
- Drinks with Mark
- [Thursday 24th March]
Mark had his viva today, so this prompted the mandatory few drinks in the evening to, er, mark the occasion. Sorry. Saw a few people I haven't seen in quite a while, which was nice.
- [Wednesday 23rd March]
Today we were actually able to plug in the new fridge/freezer. It seems to work pretty well and everything, which is good. We thought we ought to use up the stuff that was in the old freezer - those things that we actually dared eat - as it wasn't particularly frozen any more. So dinner consisted of some rosti and burgers. Actually quite nice, and pleasingly no upset stomachs (one of the joys of being vegetarian - a much lower risk of food poisoning!). Didn't do much the rest of the evening - just drank a bit of whisky and watched some telly really.
- New Fridge Freezer
- [Tuesday 22nd March]
Nothing particularly exciting happened today. The only real highlight was getting a new fridge/freezer (the old one has been getting gradually less and less cold over the last few weeks). Although apparently it has to stand for a while before it can be "plumbed in", so have yet to see it in action.
Chie was late hom from work, and I was feeling lazy, so we had a very simple dinner - just some salad followed by some pasta. Actually this was really quite nice though.
- Chinese with Dad and Janie
- [Monday 21st March]
Dad and Janie came to stay as Dad had been working in the area (well, the South East at any rate). So we went out for dinner - a Chinese restaurant a short drive away, which was very nice. I ate a huge amount of tofu - a kind of tempura as a starter, and then in a yellow bean sauce for my main course.
Just before going to bed the temptation to open the bottle of Glen Scotia I'd bought in Edinburgh (only a miniature!) overcame me, and surprisingly Chie was keen to try it too. Not sure it was to my taste really - I've definitely had a good Glen Scotia before - from the whisky society - but this was, well, a bit hard to get into. Hard to put my finger on why exactly. Maybe needs further research!
- [Sunday 20th March]
Chie needed to give her frieds a lift to the station to go off to the airport in the morning, so we were in town before many of the shops were even open. We had breakfast at the Gorge cafe - one of those places you often go past and think "we must go there sometime". This was very nice. Following on from this we had a series of shopping tasks to complete. Having built up a considerable stash of assorted vouchers, we thought we would try and get as much as possible without spending any real money. So I got a Japanese dictionary and a book about Kanji, as well as a present for my nephew, all in WH Smiths. Then we bought dinner in Marks and Spencers, also with vouchers. Spent the remainder of the afternoon mainly messing around on the computer - found an excellent piece of free software called Inkscape which would allow me to do vector graphics (SVG, EPS etc). Had our M and S dinner in the evening, which was very nice (and wonderfully lazy). Didn't do much the rest of the evening.
- Drinks with Rob and Kate
- [Saturday 19th March]
I spent the daytime very dutifully slogging away on the thesis. In the evening Chie and I had burgers (plus a bit of pasta I had made for lunch and not eaten) for dinner. Rob had given me a call out of the blue to see if I wanted to go for a drink, which was super. So about 7:30 Rob and Kate came over to Pangbourne, and we toddled off to the Cross Keys for a few choice beverages and a good old natter.
- [Friday 18th March]
Went into Reading for a drink and a curry with Michelle and Steve, who we haven't seen for a while (since before Christmas perhaps). The food at Devana was particularly good this evening, and I suprised myself by actually being able to eat it all for a change - maybe partly to do with only having one pint beforehand. Left relatively early, and was home for around 10ish so took the opportunity to have an early night.
- [Thursday 17th March]
Went into London in the daytime to see my supervisor, and constructed a battle plan for the forthcoming few weeks of finally winding up my thesis. Went for dinner afterwards at the new noodle place (Tai Tip Mein) on Elephant and Castle - seemingly owned by the same people as the original one (Tai Won Mein). The portions are still huge, the prices still crazily low, and the quality still very good. I think it is a good idea I don't get to go there very often or I'd end up very, very fat.
- Yuka back to Japan
- [Wednesday 16th March]
Yuka went back to Japan today. Her flight was early evening (at least that's what we thought originally!) so Chie had taken the day off work to see her off at the airport. Didn't do much in the daytime, Yuka was busy packing, and I spent most of the day setting up my new laptop and starting to tinker with the thesis a bit. I drove for the first time in a few weeks (having decided a while back I wasn't very good at it, and wanted to give it a rest), as I needed to drop the girls off at the station around 4. In the end it turned out Yuka's flight was 2 hours later than she originally thought, so Chie was quite a lot later coming back from the airport, and I went to pick her up on the way back too. We had a late dinner when Chie got back - I made potatoes dauphinois with these vegetarian "meatball" things in a sort of tomatoey sauce... with broad beans.
- [Tuesday 15th March]
This was Chie's sister's last full day in England, and as I was off work I thought it would be nice to show her round Oxford a bit. As it happens, I realised I don't really know much about Oxford other than the pubs, but I got a little guidebook and together we just about muddled through. Did many of the usual sightseeing things - Carfax Tower, Christchurch College (made two trips here, as the dining hall was shut on the first attempt), the Bridge of Sighs, etc, etc.
In the evening Yuka and I stayed in Oxford, and went to visit a couple of pubs - the King's Arms, followed by the White Horse, and of course the Turf Tavern. Later we were joined by Gav and Chie, to go for a Lebanese meal, as it happened to be my birthday today. We ate at Du Liban, which was very nice, and went for another drink at the Eagle and Child afterwards - the pub where supposedly C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. R. R. R. R. Tolkien used to go to dicuss lions, witchs, wardrobes, hobbits and rings over a couple of beers.
- Waiting for Stuff
- [Monday 14th March]
I spent the daytime staying in, waiting for parcels to arrive. Chiefly I had ordered a new laptop. After some initial confusion to do with which door the delivery people were supposed to use, I eventually received everything in one go at lunchtime. Spent the afternoon doing all the usual setting up etc required whenever you get a new PC. Seems like a nice little machine so far. Made Thai Green Curry for dinner, and probably spent most of the evening tinkering with my new laptop as well.
- Abergavenny and Bath
- [Sunday 13th March]
Had breakfast at Vera's, and following a chat with Robin about potential wedding venues, we went out to look at a candidate not too far from Vera and Robin's house. I was rather taken with it, although it was pretty rustic and a bit rough around the edges, the house still had a sense of grandeur about it. We checked later on to discover it probably wasn't available when we wanted it, so this idea had to be placed to the back burner.
For lunch, Vera and Robin treated us to an early birthday meal at Ye Olde Crown Inn, not far out of Abergavenny. This was all very nice. After lunch, Chie, Yuka and I headed off, having decided to make a stop off somewhere or other on the way back.
So we spent a couple of hours in Bath in the afternoon, took a look at the pump room, the royal circus, the crescent, and so on. We got back at 7 or 8, and didn't really do much the rest of the evening. None of us were particularly hungry, so we didn't really cook anything for dinner. I started to feel peckish much later on in the evening so made a pan of rice, and knocked up a couple of omasubi.
- [Saturday 12th March]
I'd arranged to go and meet Vera today, so was a bit concerned about the possibility of having one of those evil all day hangovers I often get after a heavy drinking session. I must have taken it easy on Friday though, as I didn't actually feel too bad in the morning, and in fact I was actually waiting for the girls to get ready to leave.
We arrived at Vera and Robin's in time for a late-ish lunch, and after that went for a bit of a wander round Abergavenny. Had a quick look at the castle, which I hadn't seen before, and just about caught the tail end of a market. In the evening Robin and Vera put together a very nice meal - everyone else had fish pie, I had a sort of vegetable curry. Found I was surprisingly quite capable of drinking, and enjoyed the remainder of the contents of my hipflask (from the previous weekend's trip to Edinburgh - probably not safe) in a copita that was an absolutely ideal shape for whisky.
- Leaving Do
- [Friday 11th March]
Today was my last day at work. I had been at the company getting on for seven years, so it was a bit sad to leave, but still, sometimes these things are necessary for the sake of progress, etc... Went for the obligatory drinks in the evening, and a curry.
- [Thursday 10th March]
Made lasagne for the girls, which came out rather nicely. Drank a bottle of wine given to me by Aileen, which was very nice. Other than that not a particularly eventful evening.
- [Wednesday 9th March]
Finished off the remainder of my truffle, bought in Paris, with some fresh tagliatelle and then an omelette. Not quite as exciting this time round. Not a particularly great evening all told.
- Chinese Takeaway
- [Tuesday 8th March]
Chie brought home a chinese takeaway for dinner, as I didn't really feel like cooking. Not really much else to report!
- Monday in Edinburgh
- [Monday 7th March]
Again enjoyed the views of the castle over breakfast before checking out and heading over to Calton Hill. Took in yet more great views at Calton Hill - this seemed to be a developing theme of the weekend! After this we wanded back down into the centre for a spot of shopping. After a while a left the girls to it, and retreated to the whisky society for a last visit. Yuka and Chie met me there for lunch a little while later. After that it was pretty much a case of picking up our bags and heading over to the station to get our train.
We got a train from Waverley at about 4. Everything seemed to be going fine until Doncaster, where the electrical connection thingy on the train blew up, eventually forcing us to get off the train and wait for another. As is always the case one delay led to another, and we ended up getting home, tired and weary, somewhat later than I would have hoped - at almost midnight. Still, a great weekend regardless.
- Sunday in Edinburgh
- [Sunday 6th March]
Enjoyed some excellent views of the castle over breakfast which persuaded us to go and wander round it for the majority of the morning. The admission was a bit pricey at just under ten quid a head, but in my opinion worth it - we spent a good couple of hours there and thoroughly enjoyed it. Had a late-ish lunch at an All Bar One (actually not that bad) and then meandered back to the hotel for a bit of a rest, and to start getting ready for going out in the evening.
Headed over to Leith, Edinburgh's port, for the evening. We started off with a wander around, then went for pre-dinner drinks at the whisky society's main venue - the Vaults, before heading over to a restaurant called The Shore for dinner. Dinner was very good indeed, and we rounded it off nicely with another drink at the Vaults.
- Saturday in Edinburgh
- [Saturday 5th March]
Spent the majority of the daytime travelling (first class!) and arrived in Edinburgh just after five. Checked into our hotel and then went for pre-dinner drinks at the whisky society's city centre venue on Queens Street. It was my first time here, and so it was all rather exciting! After that went for an Italian meal at a restaurant just round the corner from the whisky society. Retired to the hotel relatively early, but had to change rooms eventually as it was just too noisy to get to sleep!
- [Friday 4th March]
Spent the daytime doing a "handover meeting" (i.e. teaching my colleagues how to do my job!), which for complex reasons was held at our sister company's offices about 40 minutes drive away. This turned into a surprisingly nice day's work actually, particularly the pizza at lunch time. In the evening, after going for a little drive in Rich's new car, I made dinner - kimchi nabe - for Chie and Yuka. This was, as far as I was concerned, a slightly disappointing kimchi nabe, although the girls didn't seem to mind it too much. The rest of the evening seemed to be spent in the girls doing a "fashion show" deciding what to wear on our trip to Edinburgh.
- Lunch at the Cross Keys
- [Thursday 2rd March]
Met up with Yuka and Miho for lunch to say goodbye to Miho who was flying back to Japan today. Went to the Cross Keys, and surprisingly both of the girls seemed to want to have the same as me - the vegetarian burger. This was actually very nice, well, I thought so at least. In the evening we made Mediteranean / Leabanese food including some rather nice very thin bread we'd bought in Waitrose. I think it was Yuka's first time to have this sort of food (Halloumi, cous cous, etc), and it seemed to go down rather well.
- Yuka and Miho's Sushi
- [Wednesday 2nd March]
This was Miho's last night in England so as a "thank you for having us", Yuka and Miho made dinner for me and Chie. It was Japanese food of course - including some rather excellent avacado and tamago futo maki. Also had some sake - a bottle Han-Myungsan gave me a while back, drank from masu (square wooden cups), with kinpun in. Altogether very nice indeed! More pictures...
- [Tuesday 1st March]
Made a "gourmet" meal for the girls with ingredients bought in France. Started with sauteed morels on a potato rosti, then followed with the piece de la resistance - tagliatelle with fresh truffle. Fresh truffles are worlds apoart from those you get in jars - such a strong fragance - you can smell it from metres away. The taste is fairly subtle though, you need a fair amount to really taste it. Still, a real experience, very satisfying! More pictures...
- Monday in Paris
- [Monday 28th February]
As our train wasn't until about 6 in the evening, we were able to make surprisingly good use of the time on the last day. Yuka and Miho did their own thing in the morning (don't remember where). Me and Chie got up later on and wandered out for a spot of brunch at a really great little sandwich place called Nils, which is supposedly Scandanavian, and surprisingly was ran by this English guy.
Chie and I spent the rest of the morning on a general wander, before meeting up with Yuka and Miho for lunch. We ate at a place called Cigale something or other, which specialised in souffles. I'd never really had a souffle before and I think I've developed the general opinion that they're not really my cup of tea. The sweet ones were a bit more up my street though.
After lunch the girls went off again, and Chie and I spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around shops etc. Spent quite a while in Printemps, the department store, particularly as it has a roof terrace with some nice views of Paris.
We got on the train back to London just after 6, following a small drama where Yuka and Miho managed to get lost in Gare du Nord somehow, and we thought they weren't going to make the train. The return train journey was surprisingly nice - drank the remainder of whisky in my hipflask, ate some pistachio nuts, had a surprisingly nice meal from the buffet and just generally relaxed.
- Sunday in Paris
- [Sunday 27th February]
This was almost certainly my favourite day of the trip. This, despite a rather shaky start - I woke with a surprising hangover, although I'd only had a few beers the previous evening it was all on an empty stomach. Undeterred we headed out at a reasonable time in the morning for a tour of some Parisian markets - about the only thing that opens on a Sunday. My favourite was, of course, the food market we went to first (around the Bastille I think). We bought a few bits and pieces here including the usual bread, olives and cheese, and also some morels to take back to England. After that we continued on to some antiques markets in the North of Paris. Had lunch in a cafe by one of the antiuque markets, which wasn't bad.
Later in the afternoon I was starting to feel a bit tired after the excesses of the previous evening, so we went back to the hotel for a bit of a nap. We resumed our holiday activities with renewed vigour in the early evening, first off with a trip to a couple of bars. The second one - Harry's (or Henry's) New York Bar - was the alleged birthplace of the Bloody Mary. The first one was actually the bar next door, which we went into by mistake having failed to work out which door was which!
For dinner we met up with Yuka and Miho again, to go to a cafe I'd read about in Time Out called Au General La Fayette, and fortunately one of only a handful that was open on a Sunday. This rounded off the day brilliantly - great food, great decor and all round great atmosphere. Lovely.
- Saturday in Paris
- [Saturday 26th February]
Headed into London towards the end of the morning, and caught the Eurostar from Waterloo around 1 o' clock in the afternoon. It was a very pleasant journey on the train (very pleased I managed to talk the girls out of going by plane), although I have to admit it did seem to drag a bit towards the end.
Arrived in Paris around 5:30 French time, and after quickly checking into our hotel (near Opera/Madeleine) we went out for an early evening stroll to see some of the sights. Got a load of the obligatory touristy bits done straight away - a stroll down the Champs Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe, and even a quick trip up the Eiffel Tower (to the second floor, from where there were some very nice night views of Paris).
After this I escorted the girls to a restaurant, at around 9:30, where I left them and headed over to Gare du Nord to meet up with David for a drink. It just so happened that David was in Paris that evening too - having been to see the rugby or something. Spent a while in a very "lively" bar just outside Gare Du Nord, which was totally overrun with Welsh rugby supporters. We left that bar around midnight, having been told it was perhaps not such a good idea being a group of Englishmen surrounded by increasingly drunk and rowdy (roudy?) Welshmen. After a failed attempt (i.e. it had just closed) to get a drink in David's hotel bar - disappointing, as it had an interesting range of whiskies we went to another bar next door for a couple more drinks.
David decided to call it a night at about 1AM, and I then had the fun task of trying to get back to my hotel. I initially went into the metro station at Gare du Nord, to discover the metro had stopped for the night, and then slightly to my dismay realised the gates to Gare du Nord had been locked (with me on the inside). Obviously I managed to get out in the end. Having retrieved my Time Out Paris (including the all important map) from the "choppy" bar overrun with Welshmen I was able to navigate my way back to my hotel. This was actually a very pleasant walk - about 45 minutes - the snow was falling, and the population of Paris seemed to have gone to bed for the large part.
- [Friday 25th February]
Made macaroni cheese for dinner. Spent some of the evening getting ready for our trip to Paris I think.