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.

John's Journal / Blog
Main Index
Archives
RSS
John's Pictures
Main Index
Main Index (text only)
Categories
Recent Updates
RSS
John's Travel
Main Index
Places
Map
RSS
Other Related Sites:
Maison de Stuff
Stuffware
Exif.org
Chiesan
Celtlands

Recent Entries:
Bank Holiday Monday
Belgravia with Andy
Mum in London
Tapas and Ducks
Thursday
Wednesday
Tuesday
Monday
Japanese Breakfast and Shoe Shopping
Sarsi
Champocalypse
Pac Man
Wednesday
Tuesday
Disappointing Cocktails in Shoreditch
Playground
Guildford
Escape from New York
Thursday in New York
Wednesday in New York
Flying to New York
Forest Hill
Chie's Birthday
The North
Birthday Lunch with Chie
Chie's Birthday Lunch
Beer and Burrito
Antelope
Tube Strike
Primavera
Cecilia's Birthday
Sloane Square
Champagne with Iain
Bank
Kentish Town
Veggie Age
Vauxhall City Farm
Easter Sunday

Bank Holiday Monday
[Monday 26th May 2014]
Iris, a friend from our NCT course, brought her son Oliver round to play with Erika in the morning. So ensued the usual frenzied bout of cleaning which occurs immediately before receiving guests. The kids played for a while in the lounge (thus the funny pictures in Erika's play pen) whilst I made some tea. Just as I was pouring the tea I heard Iris saying "it's fine as long as you don't put milk in it" which prompted me to then swiftly march into the kitchen and tip her tea into the sink. Interesting how things which are completely culturally normal for some people are just downright weird for other people.

Recently the weather had been quite wet, and so after a bit of playing inside we all decamped to the gardens so Erika and Oliver could have a splash about in the puddles. They both seemed to thoroughly enjoy this, and both of them got thoroughly soaked in the process.

Later on in the afternoon we headed out and got the tube to Green Park. We went to an exhibition on Chiaroscuro at the Royal Academy. Not really my cup of tea to be honest. Also did a bit of shopping whilst out at some of the usual haunts - Fortnum and Mason, Whole Foods, and Rice Wine Shop.

I'm guessing we probably had Japanese food for dinner, but don't remember.
[No comments]

Belgravia with Andy
[Sunday 25th May 2014]
Took Erika for a wander round the gardens in the morning.

In the afternoon I headed over to my office where I'd arranged to meet Andy, who was passing through London again on his global travels. Originally we'd discussed spending the afternoon doing some sort of far flung pub crawl - possibly to East or North London, but in the end the requirement to store luggage at my office whilst we were out meant it made sense to just stay fairly close by, and so we didn't get beyond the borders of Belgravia. Not necessarily such a bad thing.

We started at the Star Tavern, wherein I tried their vegetarian Sunday roast (not bad - not sure why I've never spotted this before), then proceeded on from there to the Nags Head, the Grenadier, and finally the Duke of Wellington.

It was a delight as always to wile away the time with Andy in the very pleasant surroundings of Belgravia's excellent pubs.
[3 comments]

Mum in London
[Saturday 24th May 2014]
Mum came to London for the day today.

She started off her day by heading down to Tooting, of all places. We'd initially considered going down to meet her there for lunch, but on closer inspection the only restaurants in that neck of the woods which sounded appealing were Indian, and on a previous trip I remember Mum saying she didn't really like the idea of having spicy food for lunch.

So instead we thought we'd try something a bit different, and went to a Portuguese restaurant in Stockwell. Whilst I generally like the idea of constantly trying lots of different international cuisines when Mum comes to visit, I can't really pretend this was a particularly successful instance. The place we went to mentioned on their website they had vegetarian options, but once we actually got to the restaurant the waiter responded to this query with a rather indifferent shrug. I'm not really sure what it was that they served me in the end, it apparently involved tofu, and very quickly got very boring. Mum didn't particularly enjoy her meal either.

After that we headed back in the direction of SW1, and on a bit of a whim I decided we should take Mum on a tour of Westminster Abbey - as a resident I have a card to get in for free, and so I had meant to go back for a second wander round, and had never quite got around to it until now. That made for a pleasant afternoon distraction.

Went back to the flat after that, where Mum spent the time playing with Erika, whilst I knocked up a light dinner - to continue the unusual international cuisine theme I made an Indonesian curry.
[No comments]

Tapas and Ducks
[Friday 23rd May 2014]
Tapas for dinner on the way home, then met some ducks in the gardens.
[No comments]

Thursday
[Thursday 22nd May]
[No comments]

Wednesday
[Wednesday 21st May]
[No comments]

Tuesday
[Tuesday 20th May]
[No comments]

Monday
[Monday 19th May]
[No comments]

Japanese Breakfast and Shoe Shopping
[Sunday 18th May 2014]
Had a Japanese breakfast this morning. In the afternoon went out to buy Erika some new shoes.
[No comments]

Sarsi
[Saturday 17th May 2014]
An attempt to cure my hangover.
[No comments]

Champocalypse
[Friday 16th May 2014]
Chie and Erika came to my office for breakfast in the morning. In the evening drank far too much Champagne.
[No comments]

Pac Man
[Thursday 15th May 2014]
Made a coffee at work which very vaguely resembled Pac Man. Not really intentionally.
[No comments]

Wednesday
[Wednesday 14th May 2014]
Chie was out again this evening so again I both dropped Erika off at nursery and picked her up in the evening. On the way back I bumped into Aimi, one of our NCT friends (who by coincidence also works for the same company as me) with her daughter Lily. They invited us to the gardens of the square they live in so the girls could have a bit of a run around together, leaving us grown ups to have a very middle class parent chat about schools, etc.

I didn't really feel like cooking after that, and Erika had already had a bit to eat while we were in the garden, so on the way back I picked up some takeaway tapas from our usual place which Erika and I ate sitting on the floor when we got home.
[No comments]

Tuesday
[Tuesday 13th May 2014]
Chie went out this evening, so for the first of two days in a row I both dropped Erika off at nursery and picked her up again in the evening. It is hard work being sole parent and quite a challenge to get a full day's work in as well!
[No comments]

Disappointing Cocktails in Shoreditch
[Monday 12th May 2014]
I'd bumped into Jesse while in New York last week, a colleague who used to work in the London office. As it happens he was in London for a few days this week, and suggested going out for a drink this evening.

He'd initially requested I take him to some pubs, but as it turned out he was more in the mood for cocktails, so my originally plan of going round a few old favourites in the City turned into one quick visit to the Lamb in Leadenhall market, followed by a succession of Shoreditch cocktail bars which were mostly quite disappointing - the "Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town" (yes the ridiculous name should probably have been enough to put me off) followed by "Whistling Shop" and then "Calloh Callay". I think I should just stick to the traditional hotel cocktail bars, as none of these hipster places were really my cup of tea.
[No comments]

Playground
[Sunday 11th May 2014]
I was still quite tired after my trip, and slept quite late this morning, which became a bit of a bone of contention as it meant Chie was looking after Erika and therefore didn't have a lie in. She did not seem in a very good mood this morning.

To try and give Chie a break I took Erika out for most of the afternoon. I went for lunch at the Pizza Express on Millbank, we've often walked past but (not really liking Pizza Express) have never been in before. It has quite a large dining room though, which is usually almost entirely empty, and I thought it would be a good place to take Erika and not have to worry about disturbing other people if she became a bit unruly. As it happens though I needn't have worried, she slept through lunch. My pizza was not very good.

After that we went to our favourite playground, by the Houses of Parliament, and Erika had a play and a late lunch there. Then we headed to the Little Waitrose where I lazily bought ready made roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings for dinner. Made cauliflower and broccoli in cheese sauce to go with it, which came out rather well - Erika particularly enjoyed it.
[No comments]

Guildford
[Saturday 10th May 2014]
I was woken this morning by Erika saying "Daddy!", it couldn't have been lovelier. I worried that by going away she might be somehow cross with me for having not been around, but instead she just seemed pleased that I was back.

Got the train down to Guildford for the afternoon to visit Adrian, Liz and the kids, to coincide with Dad and Janie visiting. Owing to transportation requirements we went to the other station in Guildford - London Road, and walked from there to a pub called the Albany where we met up with the rest of them. It was a very nice big family lunch - and Erika particularly enjoyed sitting down the end of the table being entertained by her cousins, and playing with the electric pencil sharpener (I love that photo!).

After lunch we went to a nearby playground so the kids could have a play - the helter skelter was a particular hit.

Got the train back to London after that.

In the evening Chie went out, and I stayed in to look after Erika, and watched the Eurovision Song Contest. I did a live video link-up for some of it with some friends the other side of London who were having a Eurovision party.
[2 comments]

Escape from New York
[Friday 9th May 2014]
I had a 7am flight from Newark airport in the morning, which meant I needed to leave my hotel by 5 to be on the safe side. I felt like aI barely slept, and just seemed to pointlessly lay awake all night worrying about oversleeping.

I'd originally booked to be in premium economy on the way back, as I'd bought the flight using air miles, and there wasn't any availability in upper for a mileage flight. The prospect of slumming it in premium was rather off putting, so on arrival at the airport asked if I could upgrade using cash or miles. To upgrade using cash was going to cost $2000. Or, ridiculously, despite having essentially no air miles I could buy the additional miles I'd need for about 200 and upgrade that way. I despair at airlines pricing structures sometimes.

Used the lounge very briefly - surprised myself by ordering Eggs Florentine (albeit with scrambled rather than a poached egg) since it was the only thing other than cereal on the menu which was vegetarian.

It was a very quiet flight back to London, watched a couple more films including part 2 of the Hobbit (it really isn't as good as Lord of the Rings was, is it?).

On arrival at Heathrow I pretty much ran through the airport and made it past security and immigration in record time, as I really wanted to get back home before Erika went to sleep. In the end I didn't make it - both the Heathrow Express and then the tube conspired together to slow my journey onwards from the airport. Still I was at least greeted on my return to the flat by a dozing little princess. Even though it had only been three nights away I had really missed her.
[No comments]

Thursday in New York
[Thursday 8th May 2014]
As the original purpose of this trip had sort of turned out to no longer be that much of a going concern, it was convenient that the second day I was here coincided with the first day of a summit for the new project I was getting involved in. So I spent most of the daytime in meetings about that.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we headed out to Williamsburg for a field test of the prototype we're working on. In other words we went to a couple of cocktail bars loosely in the name of work. The first cocktail bar had a much more respectable vermouth (Cocchi) than my hotel bar last night.

A smaller group of us (including my former manager who although not involved in my new project had popped by to say hello) headed back to Manhattan a little after 8 for a rather involved dinner at a vegetarian Japanese restaurant called Kajitsu. Therein we had the omakase (chef's selection) tasting menu which ran to about 8 courses and seemingly a hundred or more different ingredients. To be honest I was a bit too tired to fully appreciate it, and particularly towards the end I found myself hoping each course would be the last, so I could get back to my hotel and get some sleep - as I had a very early start the next morning.
[No comments]

Wednesday in New York
[Wednesday 7th May 2014]
Predictably woke up about 4:30 in the morning, and couldn't get back to sleep - I didn't really manage more than about 4 hours sleep on any night of this trip.

Headed into the office for about 7am, and essentially just spent the whole day there. I was surprised by how many people I knew I bumped into during the two days I was here.

Had a "team dinner" with a team I was originally supposed to be working with over the coming months, but as these things go in the interim between planning this trip and actually coming here some things had changed, and it looked less like we'd be collaborating after all. We went to a restaurant called the Monarch Rooms, which wasn't really my cup of tea. I rather convinced myself Brian Blessed was also there, but it can't have been as he looked about 30 years too young, and 5 stones too thin.

After dinner I went for a drink with my colleague who had also come over from London - she wanted to show me the view from the bar at the top of the Standard Hotel. As it happens the bar was closed for a private function, so instead we went into the sort of night club next door, which theoretically had the same view, but the interior and clientele were sufficiently horrid that we only stayed for one drink. Headed back to our own hotel bar for another drink, and there bumped into another colleague who was visiting from California.

My sense of the superiority of London over New York was pleasingly given a lift in this bar - I ordered a Negroni, and the barman asked what type of gin I wanted. I said I was more interested in the type of vermouth, to which he replied they only had Martini Rosso, and the vast majority of bars in New York would be the same. I smugly informed him I'd rather not have a Negroni then.
[No comments]

Flying to New York
[Tuesday 6th May 2014]
Dropped Erika off a nursery in the morning, went into work until just after lunch, then headed off to Heathrow. This was my first proper business trip since Erika was born (assuming you don't count the trips to Japan, as of course the girls came along with me then), and the first time to leave Chie looking after Erika by herself overnight (in Japan I'd usually spent a few nights in Tokyo away from the girls, but then they were with Chie's parents so had extra help on hand). So I think we were both a bit apprehensive about it, and I really wasn't too keen on being in a different country from Erika.

As a result I'd arranged for it to be as short a trip as physically possible - just three nights away.

I'd managed to get a seat in Upper Class on the way out, so arrived at Heathrow a tad earlier than I normally might (my usual criteria is to spend the least possible time in the airport). After whisking through the Fast Track security I headed straight for the lounge, and spent a pleasant hour relaxing there with a couple of cocktails and a late lunch.

Boarded the plan around 3:30, and it turned out I was sitting across the aisle from Marco Pierre White. Unsurprisingly he turned down most of the in-flight catering, the only thing I saw him eat was the tub of Haagen Dazs they brought along about half way through.

One of the main things I normally like about Upper Class is the chance to sit at the onboard bar, and on previous trips have spent most of the flight there. I wasn't really in the mood for some reason today, so just had one quick drink there, and otherwise spent the whole time in my seat. Watched a couple of films, including Wolf of Wall Street.

Landed at JFK around 7pm, managed to get through immigration and customs fairly quickly (particularly as I only had carry-on luggage), but then spent a frustratingly long time waiting in a queue for a taxi. Last time I had attempted to journey into Manhattan by public transport, and it had been a long, confusing, and at times a bit scary journey - so I decided not to repeat that.

Got to my hotel around 8, immediately regretted my choice of accommodation as the guy at the check-in desk spent half the time talking about the procedure for getting into the nightclub. The lobby was full of young party going types. I just rather hoped that I was sufficiently tired by this point I'd sleep irrespective of the likely noise.

After dropping off my bags, and doing a quick bit of research, I headed out for dinner. I chose a place within walking distance called Soy and Sake - perfect for me as I like both. It seems to be something of a tradition to have sake on the first night in New York. The menu at this place was full of fake meat, of which I am a big fan, and I have to admit this was actually quite tasty, albeit that some elements seemed a little odd to my tastes (courgettes in a stir fry?).

Headed back to my hotel after that and went to bed.
[No comments]

Forest Hill
[Monday 5th May 2014]
We'd arranged to meet Akino-san and family today, with a vague plan to go to the Horniman museum. So we got the bus down to Forest Hill, and started off our day in a very nice little cafe called The Montage, which had a kids play room and a little garden out the back. So we lingered over our coffees there for almost an hour.

We'd originally thought we might go for a pub lunch, but as the weather was quite pleasant we instead decided to have a picnic in the little park beside the Horniman. In the end we didn't actually get round to going to the museum itself.
[No comments]

Chie's Birthday
[Sunday 4th May 2014]
Opened presents in the morning, and then for lunch went out into the gardens for a Lebanese picnic, with a bottle of Waitrose Champagne they'd given us as a gift a while back for being good customers, or something like that. Picnics seem to be a great compromise with Erika at the moment, as she's not all that keen on just sitting still during a meal, so in between mouthfuls she can have a little explore around, and, assuming she doesn't wander too far off, we can just relax and get on with eating and drinking.

Later in the afternoon I took Erika out for a bit of a stroll to help her get to sleep, and so Chie could have a bit of a break. I had assumed she would fall asleep as soon as we started moving, but she still seemed wide awake, so we first went to the playground by the Houses of Parliament, hoping that might tire her out a bit, but instead it seemed to make her hungry. Having not brought any snacks with me I had to make an emergency stop at the little Tesco in Westminster, after which we continued our stroll. We took in Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square, and eventually Erika fell asleep. Did a bit of shopping at the little Waitrose on Victoria Street then headed home.
[No comments]

The North
[Saturday 3rd May 2014]
Went to look at a flat in Kentish Town towards the end of the morning, starting off with a coffee at the Doppio Coffee Warehouse in "K-Town" which could almost have been set up by the estate agents, for all the gentrification buttons it was pressing. To be honest I didn't pay much attention to the flat itself, given my complete confusion about the schooling situation in the area.

After that we went for a quick lunch at the branch of Pizza East in Kentish Town. Stupidly I mentioned the P word on the way to the restaurant. Erika is a bit obsessed with pasta at the moment, and as soon as she think it's meal time, and she has an inkling that pasta is on the menu, she will essentially say the word over and over again, in an increasingly frustrated tone, until she gets it. It's a bit embarrassing when in public.

Chie wasn't actually eating, as she had plans to go for an early afternoon tea with some of her friends, as part of her continuing birthday weekend celebrations. So I suppose that was actually convenient, as she could focus on feeding Erika and I could eat my own. Wasn't particularly bowled over by the pizza to be honest, and the place overall put me in mind of Pizza Express trying to be hip.

After lunch, Chie headed off to afternoon tea, and amidst the usual protest from Erika whenever her Mummy leaves her I wheeled her up the hill to Hampstead Heath for a stroll and some fresh air. At the nearest corner of the heath there was a little farmer's market on (another standard device to lull you into a sense of gentrification), which we had a quick wander round, then followed by a playground which Erika seemed to enjoy (there were wooden animals to sit on, which seemed to be the highlight). Next we went to watch dogs splashing about in one of the ponds, Erika seemed to enjoy that too.

From there we took quite a long wander across the heath, during which Erika eventually nodded off. The scenery was particularly beautiful today, and it really felt like North London was pulling out all the stops. I think I made up my mind at that point that, even if Kentish Town had a lot of question marks around it, we should definitely be aiming for somewhere in walking distance of the heath.

On reaching Hampstead I went for a look around some of the shops to try and find a birthday present for Chie, but nothing was really jumping out at me. I headed down as far as Belsize Park, by which time Erika had woken up, and we headed into the branch of Daunt Books there to buy a couple of new books for her. They had little children's seats in the kids corner, and she sat there whilst I showed her a variety of books to see what she might like. That was rather lovely. Whilst in there I noticed a nappy change was required, so we headed across the road to Starbucks, and having learned from my previous experience of using Starbucks as a baby change facility, I avoided ordering coffee, and instead we each had some juice. So after the nappy change was done with we both sat there sipping on juice and watching the world go by. That too was rather lovely.

Got on the tube at Belsize Park and headed down to Oxford Circus so we could go to Liberty to look for a birthday present for Chie. That was a bit more successful. Headed home after that.

Made Lebanese food for dinner, although we didn't really eat very much of it, so conveniently this ended up being the bulk of our picnic tomorrow.
[No comments]

Birthday Lunch with Chie
[Friday 2nd May 2014]
Took the afternoon off work, and went for a long luxurious lunch with Chie at Trishna in Marleybone, as a birthday treat (a couple of days ahead of th actual day).
[No comments]

Chie's Birthday Lunch
[Friday 2nd May 2014]
One thing Chie and I have both been hankering for in recent weeks is the opportunity to enjoy a "gorgeous lunch" together, just the two of us. As much as we miss Erika as soon as we're away from her, and time spent with her is of course very precious, it isn't typically what you might call relaxing.

After several failed attempts recently to have a nice quiet lunch while Erika had a nap at the weekend (several times in a row she fell asleep just before lunch, then woke up as soon as we arrived at the restaurant), we decided the only way to guarantee it was to take time off work in the week, while Erika was at nursery. As it happens Chie's birthday was also this weekend, which seemed to help justify it.

I'd chosen a place called Trishna in Marylebone for our lunch - it's an Indian restaurant which specialises in seafood, but also has a vegetarian tasting menu. That sounded like a really good match for the two of us, and also the fact it has a Michelin star meant it would hopefully be a bit special too.

We both ordered 7 course tasting menus - Chie's largely seafood based, mine the vegetarian one (of course). Although there were one or two highlights, in hindsight I regret ordering the tasting menu, as mine at least ended up being effectively 5 courses of starters (some of which were rather silly and tiny) followed by a course which looked a lot like a conventional main course, then a final course which even in the confusing landscape of Indian sweets was unmistakably a dessert. I note that in some Indian restaurants they offer a kind of platter of assorted appetizers as a starter, what they'd done here was effectively one of those, spread out over an hour and a half, on five different plates.

Chie's earlier courses looked like a lot more thought had gone into them, and were also more substantial, and I was left with that familiar sense of disgruntlement that the vegetarians are assumed to be women on a diet who are more interested in chatting with friends than the food itself, not men with robust appetites who expect to be getting something really special when spending about three or four times what we normally would on an Indian meal.

Oh well, the disappointment with the food aside, it did at least fulfill the requirement of being very relaxed and self indulgent - we were there for a good two and a half hours. I went for the wine pairings with each of the courses, which were mostly good - particularly the glass of Billecart Salmon at the start.

We rather unceremoniously got the number 2 bus back to Pimlico, on which I felt a tad overdressed in my bespoke suit. We went and picked Erika up from nursery together which made a very nice change. She as having her afternoon snack when we arrived, so we hung around a bit and watched her eat. It was rather lovely.

Spent the rest of the evening back at the flat. Chie and I decided not to bother with dinner.
[1 comment]

Beer and Burrito
[Thursday 1st May 2014]
Chie and Erika went round to have dinner with our friend Iris this evening, so I was given a night off from parenting duties. I worked "late" (by recent post-having-a-child standards) and was at the office until just after 7. I rather fancied a burrito, so thought it might be a good opportunity to try out a new place. After a bit of research on Google Maps I settled on Poncho 8, near St. Paul's Cathedral, so got the tube to Blackfriars and walked up from there.

Not bad, but not particularly great either - and I was mournfully reminded of the sad end of Picante Mexican Grill by seeing the now deserted Blackfriars branch, which must have only been open a few months before the company went bust. Altough I never had a chance to go to that branch, the original one in SW1 remains the best burrito place in London for me, and every other place I've tried pales in comparison. How sad.

Anyway, after the not particularly wonderful burrito, since I was in that part of London where excellent pubs are plentiful, I thought I might go for a bit of a wander and revisit some old stalwarts, including the Cockpit, the Black Friar, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and the Seven Stars. Having strolled down Fleet Street (and poked my nose in at the Cock to see the 17th century carved fireplace on the first floor) I was of course put in mind of Samuel Pepys, and recall how he'd often commute to and fro between Westminster and the City by boat. In those days I believe you could just walk down to the water's edge pretty much anywhere in London and commission a boat - not unlike gondolas in Venice, I suppose. I rather fancied the idea of going home by boat, but it appears no modern equivalent of this exists - there are only scheduled boat services, more intended for sightseeing, and charter hire for parties etc. I'm fairly sure there's a gap in the market there for essentially a waterborne taxi service.
[No comments]

Antelope
[Wednesday 30th April 2014]
The deadline for entering the "sealed bid" for the flat we'd looked at last week came and went this morning. I'd initially felt quite bullish about the whole thing, but yesterday's revelations about the ridiculous schooling situation made me hesitate, and ultimately we didn't make an increased bid over the initial one at the asking price. So that's another flat we won't be buying then.

I got into a bit of a malaise as a result, and was keen to get out of the office for a bit at lunchtime, so went for a pub lunch with Kyle at the Antelope. That cheered me up a bit.

In the evening I made Japanese food for the girls for dinner, featuring all the usual items - hiyayakko and tamago-yaki (raw tofu and Japanese omelet). It's nice that a lot of the vegetarian friendly components of Japanese cuisine are also well suited to Erika - she loves tofu and also seems to really like the tamago-yaki I make (particularly since I got the special pan for it recently).
[No comments]

Tube Strike
[Tuesday 29th April 2014]
First day of a two day tube strike today - Chie walked all the way to work this morning (about four miles!). My morning commute was of course unaffected.

Despite the tube strike we ventured up to Kentish Town at lunchtime for another flat viewing - this time a new build flat, which was so new we had to don hard hats to go and look at it. I have to admit I rather liked the idea of owning something brand new like that, and the fixtures and fittings (which were being fixtured and fitted as we walked round) all looked quite appealing to me.

The estate agent was quite a nice chap (yes I know many of you will read that in disbelief) and we had quite a long chat about the area and the state of the market etc. This rather threw a spanner in the works, and highlighted how apparently naive I was when it came to the thoroughly horrid subject of school catchment areas. The closest primary school to this flat (and the other flat we'd looked at the other day) had a very good reputation, and I very naively thought that was all the due diligence on the matter that was required. The reality as it turned out is that that school was so oversubscribed that only families living basically next door to it have any hope of sending their kids there. When I then looked through the list of the other possible schools and their catchment areas, after removing some which only admitted on religious grounds, it actually looked like we wouldn't qualify for any school at all. I found that all rather frustrating and it made me very quickly become disenfranchised from the whole idea of buying property again.

I picked Erika up from nursery in the evening, as with the tube strike Chie wasn't sure how long it would take her to get home. We went straight back home and I attempted to throw something together for her dinner as quickly as possible - so she had pasta with the leftover bean stew I'd made at the weekend. Later on Chie and I also had pasta - a funny sort of bake with a cheese / pesto sauce.
[No comments]

Primavera
[Monday 28th April 2014]
Very improvised dinner - Chie had already cooked some asparagus for Erika's dinner and there was some left over, so I incorporated that into a risotto, along with some peas and broad beans, and called it a primavera. I think it's something along those lines. Not the best risotto I've ever made in terms of the texture of the rice etc (I was trying to rush it) but as an overall meal it wasn't bad.
[No comments]

Cecilia's Birthday
[Sunday 27th April 2014]
At some point in the distant past the idea of going to a kid's birthday party starting at 10:30am on a Sunday morning would have filled us with horror. Nowadays though it's not unusually to be up by 7 at weekends, so if anything today we were twiddling our thumbs a bit wondering how we'd pass the time before the party started.

We were there for quite a big chunk of the daytime in the end, and along with Naoko-san and her family we were the last to leave. It was very nice to see Erika playing with other children roughly her own age, although we notice now she is speaking more she hasn't yet figured out that not everyone understands Japanese. Apparently she will quickly learn to adapt.
[No comments]

Sloane Square
[Saturday 26th April 2014]
Headed out towards the end of the morning without any particular plan for what to do, and decided to wander in the direction of Sloane Square to do a spot of shopping. En route I decided I'd quite like to try lunch with Erika at Caraffini, the Italian restaurant near Sloane Square we'd been to once before a couple of years back. As Chie was 6 months pregnant the previous time I suppose you could say this was Erika's second time here too.

I'd recently spotted they have a covered terrace at the front, which seemed ideal for the unpredictable weather this time of year, and I particularly liked the idea of dining al fresco as we'd be less worried about Erika being noisy or generally fidgety and annoying the other customers. We had the terrace all to ourselves for most of the meal, which was even nicer - funnily enough when another diner did finally decide to also take a table outside, it was Ricky Gervais.

The pasta was particularly delicious today - I had a vegetarian version of spaghetti putanesca (i.e. without the anchovies), Chie had something seafoody, and we ordered a special bowl of pasta for Erika too. It was really nice to have her eat "proper" restaurant food for a change, rather than bringing something with us. Erika also enjoyed eating quite a lot of Chie's tiramisu, she kept dipping her fingers in it and we didn't have the heart to tell her to stop.

It was a really lovely lunch, definitely the highlight of the week.

After that we did a bit of shopping around Sloane Square and the King's Road whilst Erika dozed off in her buggy, and rounded off our day out once Erika woke up again with a wander round the Saatchi Gallery. We haven't been for quite a while, and Erika seems far more interested in the art than she was on her last visit,
[No comments]

Champagne with Iain
[Friday 25th April 2014]
Friend and former colleague Iain was in the neighbourhood today, and decided to pop into the office to join us for TGIF. As it turned out he had some good news to share (getting married + having a baby) which seemed like good cause to crack open a few bottles of Champagne. I bought some new coupes for the occasion, it was all very civilised.

I left at 8, so I could get home to take over parenting duties from Chie, who was going to her Hiroshimakenjinkai for the remainder of the evening.
[No comments]

Bank
[Thursday 24th April 2014]
My bank gave me a call recently to ask if I'd like to pop into a branch and review my accounts to make sure I was getting the best interest rates etc. I thought I might as well, so went in today and had what turned out to be a longer-than-I-might-have-hoped meeting with one of the managers there. In the end all they did was added .5% interest to my ISA and moved me to their new type of current account which it sounds like I would have been moved to automatically at some point anyway. Not sure either of those things were really worth the 45 minutes I spent there! On the plus side though, it was nice to hear lots of flattery about what a good customer I am, and they even showed me my credit rating on the screen (apparently very good!).
[1 comment]

Kentish Town
[Wednesday 23rd April 2014]
We are currently revisiting the now very weary issue of buying a property somewhere, and recently for various reasons we've been quite strongly considering Kentish Town (my office is due to move to Kings Cross in a year or two, and North London in general is generally quite pleasant).

At lunchtime today we popped out for a flat viewing in "K-Town" (as apparently some of the locals call it). It was pleasing to see the market here is not quite as frenzied as it is in Pimlico - the estate agent told us there were about 10 people viewing the property in total, to which my reply was "oh, only 10?".

We liked the flat sufficiently that we put an offer on it the next day, at the asking price, but in London now the asking price is just the starting point for the bidding.

After the viewing Chie and I went for a quick lunch at a burger shack (quite literally a shack) called "Dirty Burger". By coincidence I had noticed the other branch in this chain-of-two is in Vauxhall, and it had caught my eye when we were there on Monday. I had the "Dirty Cop Out", their veggie offering, a portobello mushroom in a bun. This was actually quite tasty - probably largely due to the very garlicky mayonnaise - but was very awkward to eat. On my return to the office I ate mints furiously in an attempt to disguise the smell.
[No comments]

Veggie Age
[Tuesday 22nd April 2014]
Back to the usual routine today after the four day weekend. As predicted Erika made a little bit of a fuss over being dropped off at nursery as she often does after having the luxury (I do hope she looks at it that way) of an extended period of time with our undivided attention.

Chie made a vegetarian version of kara age for dinner - one of my favourites!
[No comments]

Vauxhall City Farm
[Monday 21st April 2014]
Met up with Chie's friend Ayaka-san and her daughter, and went for a picnic in Vauxhall, of all places. Chie wanted to go to Vauxhall City Farm, but on arrival we discovered it was "closed" - although that doesn't really mean much here since most of the animal closures are just in the park anyway, so you can see the majority of the animals regardless.

Erika does not actually seem to like getting close to live animals. She seems philosophically interested in the idea of sheep, likes a couple of her toys which are sheep, and enjoys pointing them out in books, and making baa baa noises. However when it comes to the real thing she is quite determined to keep her distance.

Our picnic in the park beside the farm was cut short as it started raining - quite heavily - so we made a dash for Vauxhall station. I then got the tube to Victoria and went into my office for a few hours in the afternoon, to get a bit of work done, and have an important meeting - with my new manager, who is based in the US, and wasn't aware today was a national holiday here. I didn't like to say anything.
[No comments]

Easter Sunday
[Sunday 20th April 2014]
Having made quite a big effort to get out and do things over the first half of the four day Easter weekend by today we'd partly run out of steam a bit, and partly thought we could all do with a lazy day just slobbing around the flat.

I only went out towards the end of the afternoon to buy things for dinner - I was in the mood for a Sunday roast - but realised actually a lot of shops were closed. I never seem to be able to predict which days things are going to be open over easter. I ended up just about managing to get what I needed between the Sainsbury's Local next to Victoria station, and one of the several Holland and Barretts in the area. Why are there so many?

The roast was not particularly successful - no matter how hard I try I just don't seem to be able to achieve crispy roast potatoes in our oven. It is a source of constant frustration!
[No comments]