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:
- Everything falling into place
You Lucky, Lucky Bastard
Messing about on boats
Dinner on the Beach
Sunday at Dad's
Travelling to North Wales
The Big Day
The day before the Viva
...and then Guildford
Old Papers and Eating Out
Back to England
Last Day in Japan
Baps and Buns
Sightseeing with Lorenzo
Lorenzo and the Yukata Matsuri
Walking up a Mountain (sort of)
- Everything falling into place
- [Thursday 30th June]
Today was another of those days where everything just fell perfectly into place. I am starting to worry that I'm building up a serious karma deficit, having everything go my way so much recently! I woke up early at Steve and Michelle's house, and Steve very kindly gave me a lift to university, where I needed to go and print the final copies of my thesis. I was on campus a bit too early for Mark, who I'd originally arranged to impose on for the printing, but managed to find alternative arrangements instead. The super fast printer in the departmental office rattled off three copies (almost 300 pages each!) in next to no time. I'd arranged to meet up with Barry towards the end of the morning - and the timing was perfect - the print job finished just a few minutes before 11 when Barry and Heather got to the university. We randomly went off to the nearby Morrison's (formerly Safeway) for coffee, some Battenberg, and a chat, for about an hour or so. Just after 12 I returned to campus and met up with Mark, and the two of us headed over to the union for lunch. I had cheese and chips, plus a pint of generic lager in a plastic pint glass - I was in utter heaven. After lunch Mark very kindly agreed to provide me with a taxi service, taking me, the three copies of my thesis, and all my luggage, to the binders on the fringe of campus, and from there on to the station.
I got on a train from Reading just after 3 - exactly the train I wanted to get on as it was one of the few that goes all the way to Derby without having to change. After a surprisingly pleasant train journey I arrived in Derby about quarter to six, exactly on time, where Mum and Keith met me off the train. We went back to Mum's house by way of the supermarket, and had pasta with an extremely nice salad (featuring lots of interesting leaves from Mum's garden). All in all another really great day - everything just slotted into place perfectly. I am sure this can't last, as I really don't deserve to be this fortunate!
- You Lucky, Lucky Bastard
- [Wednesday 29th June]
I am a lucky bugger. By the skin of my teeth, with just a few hours to go before the deadline, the approval came through for my thesis corrections. My examiner had really pulled out the stops to get the corrections checked in time, and I am extremely grateful to him for that. In fact, given the rough time Rob has had I actually feel quite guilty in a way - why do I deserve to be so lucky? I decided at that point I ought to devote the rest of my life to doing good things for people, in payment for all this good fortune, just like Amelie.
This meant I could at last leave North Wales (I'd been hanging on in case I had to make any last minute changes) and continue with the next leg of my UK tour - on to my Mum's. Although actually I needed to spent a night in Reading first to sort out some bits and pieces, so that's where I headed, on the 11:45 train from Pwllheli. The train journey, as before, was really lovely - the scenery is really beautiful (OK, the bits in Wales are at least), and I enjoyed it all the more for being in such a good mood.
I got to Reading around 6ish, and headed straight to Pangbourne to meet up with Kev for a drink at the Cross Keys (oh how good it feels to go back there!) and some dinner at Mia Beni, followed by one last drink at the Swan before getting the train back into Reading. There I got a taxi over to the other side of town to meet up for a drink with Steve and Michelle, who also very kindly agreed to put me up for the night. It was a great day all told, and everything just fell into place in the end - I really am a lucky bugger.
(Oooh look, this is entry number 499 - so tomorrow will be number 500!)
- More Waiting
- [Tuesday 28th June]
Another agonising day spent waiting in front of the computer to hear the results of my thesis corrections. With only a matter of hours now to go before the deadline I was really starting to despair. In the evening finally my Dad dragged me out of the house, so we could go and get something to eat - we ended up going for a curry in Abersoch. I couldn't really relax and enjoy it though, my mind refused to think about anything but whether or not I was going to be able to graduate in July.
- [Monday 27th June]
Spent the day glued to my PC waiting to hear back about my thesis corrections - with the deadline looming (Wednesday midday) it is hanging in the balance whether or not I'll be graduating this year. This really became quite frustrating - everything is hanging on this decision, and I can't really travel anywhere (I had planned to go to visit my Mum) or do anything until this is resolved.
- [Sunday 26th June]
Spent the daytime visiting Aberystwyth, where Lucy was going to be doing some nursing training for the next few weeks. It's quite a nice little place actually, and apparently almost half the population are students.
It was quite a varied day all in all. On route to Aberystwyth we stopped off for a wlk in the woods near Dolgellau. We initially met Martin and Lucy near the National Library of Wales. From there we went to some place outside of Aberystwyth for lunch. After that we went for a walk on the beach in Borth, before returning to Aberystwyth for afternoon tea and a walk along the seafront there. Before leaving we check out Lucy's "digs" in the grounds of the hospital. On the way back we stopped off in Barmouth for the classic "bag of chips on the way home".
- [Saturday 25th June]
A continuation of yesterday's boating theme, as I went for a daytrip to Bardsey island. This was the first time I have been to the island in a few years (since 2000 actually). It was a pretty short visit as it has to fit between the boat coming and going. So we got onto the island about 10:30, and came off again at 2, but still, I managed to have a look at some of my old haunts etc. It's nice to see that most things haven't changed much.
- Messing about on boats
- [Friday 24th June]
Went out to sea in the afternoon in my Dad's friend's boat. My Dad's friend is called Nick, as is my Dad, which prompted the standard Python-esque "Is your name not Bruce? That's going to cause a bit of confusion...". We were only out on the water for about an hour and a half as it was beginning to get pretty choppy. Still though, it was an experience - it was the first time I'd been properly out to sea in a boat this size - there was just room for the three of us really. You really experience the sea at first hand in this sort of boat - all the waves to their full extent and so on. I haven't been seasick since I was a child, but I was feeling a little queasy towards the end of the trip today, and, being from a family with a long naval history, I was slightly embarassed by my sense of relief upon returning to dry land. Oh well, I guess it is just a case of getting used to it!
- [Thursday 23rd June]
After a morning spent doing final checking and tweaking I sent off my thesis corrections, just after lunch. Hopefully I will hear back on Monday. The deadline for final results if I want to graduate this summer is Wednesday 29th, so (as always) it is looking pretty tight, but, fingers crossed, if all goes well I stand a good chance of being at that ceremony on July 7th wearing a silly floppy hat.
Later on in the afternoon / early evening we went out for a bit to go and visit a very nice beach nearby. I played with Yates on the beach whislt Dad went off to do a spot of fishing. We couldn't find a stick to play with, so resorted to playing with a ball instead. This makes for a much harder game from the human point of view - with a stick you have a fair chance of grabbing it and getting it back off the dog once he's retrieved it, but with a ball you've got no chance. Given that Yates is so highly educated, he is far smarter than your average dog, and many of the usual tricks just don't work on him. His one weakness however, much like Scooby Doo, is dog biscuits. The ball which he'd previously held onto as though his life depended on it suddenly loses all interest to him when presented with something he can actually eat.
Dinner was supposed to be tempura - but in a classic mistake we forgot to buy any oil to cook in. After a bout of "ready steady cook" style thinking between me and my Dad we opted instead to do some mediteranean style roasted vegetables with some pasta, which was actually rather nice. For the first time in what seemed like ages I was actually able to just sit back and relax for the remainder of the evening - lovely.
- [Wednesday 22nd June]
Spent all day - from 9AM until gone 10PM - doing corrections, and by the end of the day had pretty much got everything done. Still need to have these approved, but still, after a hard day's work I thought a small celebration was in order so before going to bed I treated myself to a glass of Longrow 1994. It was very nice, although I'd burnt my mouth earlier in the day (Bovril!) and it didn't half sting! Got confirmation towards the end of the day (about midnight) that I wouldn't have to go to the states at the end of the week, meaning, with the thesis corrections (hopefully) mostly done, I might actually be able to have a bit of a rest the next day!
- Longest Day
- [Tuesday 21st June]
Apparently this was the longest day - I had forgotten about this until Chie reminded me the day after. Anyhow, it did feel pretty long actually, and for someone who is officially unemployed I seemed to be pretty stressed out and knackered by the end of it. I think I was just having one of those days where everything seemed like an ordeal. I was trying to juggle three things - doing my thesis corrections, sorting out my Dad's network, and trying to arrange a possible trip to the states later in the week. I hardly seemed to have a break all day, right from when I got up, to when I eventually threw in the towel some time after midnight. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all very brief affairs, eaten hastily between stints on the computer. I only got a very brief chance to get out of the house towards the end of the afternoon, for a short walk down to the sea and back. Oh well, hopefully the thesis corrections will be all over and done with soon, and I'll be able to have a bit of a break for a while...
- Dinner on the Beach
- [Monday 20th June]
The daytime was spent as a mixture of more corrections, and trying to sort out some of Dad's computing problems. In the evening, we went down to Aberdaron to have a picnic on the beach for dinner. This was very nice - we had a very simple meal, but everything somehow tasted nicer than it does usually... Maybe the sea air does it? After this we went for a walk, down to the bay where the boat to Bardsey goes from.
- Sunday at Dad's
- [Sunday 19th June]
I spent a large part of the daytime making a good dent into the corrections on my thesis, and was generally very pleased with myself! Towards the end of the afternoon we headed out to take Yates (a black labrador/retriever cross who has recently taken up residence at my Dad's house) down to the beach for a bit of a run. Although officially retired - he's an ex guide dog - he is still full of energy, and seemed almost impossible to tire out, no matter how many times we kept throwing that stick for him.
In the evening we went out for dinner to my Dad's local - The Lion. This has a downright excellent selection of single malts, at extremely reasonable prices. I kicked off with a regular 12 year old Clynelish, delightfully briney, and then indulged myself in a 21 year old cask strength Caol Ila. Marvellous - and the food was pretty good too (I had canneloni I think).
- Travelling to North Wales
- [Saturday 18th June]
I woke up early at David's house, and finding a dangling network cable, I decided to avail myself of David's internet connection and plan my weekend. Having sorted out a lengthy schedule of public transport, I decided I would go up to my Dad's on the Llyn peninsula in North Wales. It was going to be quite a journey, particularly as I was determined for once not to rely on my Dad having to drive for miles and miles to come and pick me up somewhere. The plan was to get right up to his door all under my own steam.
The first leg was from Reading to Birmingham (well, Wolverhampton to be precise). Naturally cynical as I am about the reliability of Virgin Trains, I opted to take a train an hour earlier than the one suggested by the National Rail website. This cynicism proved well founded - somewhere between Banbury and Leamington Spa the train in front hit a cow (!) and the line had to be closed for a while. By some magic I still managed to make my connection though - arriving in Wolverhampton about two minutes before the Pwllhelli train set off.
From Wolverhampton onwards was a really nice run, albeit a bit too hot a day to be in a train with no air conditioning. It was over four hours, winding through the Welsh countryside, before getting to the sea and then winding round the coast. I finally got to Pwllhelli just after five, and had a short wait there which gave me time to get a late lunch / early dinner (chips and curry sauce - mmmm!). From there I got a bus, which didn't quite stop in my Dad's village, so the final leg of my journey was on foot - about a three mile walk. Amazingly though, about half way there, I saw my Dad's car driving towards me. So I didn't quite make it up to his doorstep without him driving me somewhere or other, but I was pretty damn close.
We spent the remainder of the evening sitting up on the observation point above Aberdaron, with more chips, and some Guinness, waiting for a flotilla of boats to come round the peninsula, which never really materialised. It didn't matter - it was great just to sit there and breathe in the sea air and so on.
- The Big Day
- [Friday 17th June]
This day was remarkable on two fronts. First, I broke my own personal record for number of taxi rides in one day - a rather staggering six. Second, I passed my viva, meaning that subject to minor corrections I have now completed my PhD, after almost seven years. Yes, once those corrections are approved (hopefully just a few days work) I'll be Dr John Hawkins.
I started off the day at my brother's. In a similar fashion to the previous day he gave me a lift to Guildford station on his way into work. Upon arrival at Reading, given that I had all my bags and didn't want to get all sweaty whilst wearing my suit, I got a taxi (number one of the day) up to the university. On arriving at university I spent a while chatting to Mark, Ben and Ian, before meeting my supervisor for lunch around 1 o' clock. We had a final pre viva chat - actually not particularly academic in the end, more of a morale boost than anything else.
The viva was at 2 o' clock. I wouldn't say it was easy, but it wasn't by any means horrific either. My examiners really kept me on my toes, but I was pleased that there weren't really any questions I couldn't answer - exactly as it should be I suppose! We finished at around 4, they had their little meeting whilst I waited outside for a few minutes, and when I went back in again it was all smiles and handshaking - fantastic.
The rest of the day was just a constant high really - I'd been told it would be an anti-climax, but it was really quite the opposite - an anti-anti-climax... I just felt really fabulous all day - it was finally over (ok, after the corrections)...! I was with my supervisor up until about 8 in the evening (after taxi ride number 2, into the centre of Reading), having a few celebratory drinks and dinner, which was all very nice. At 8 I began a complicated logisitical operation to get my bags from the university where I'd left them, and then find somewhere else to stash them before going out for further celebrations. Taxi journey number 3 whizzed me back up to the university, where Ben had very kindly waited with my bags, and then number 4 took me off to Tilehurst to David's house, where, as luck would have it, Simon still hadn't gone out yet for the evening. Everything just fell into place perfectly.
Simon, Vanessa and I decided we'd far rather go to Pangbourne for a few drinks than into the centre of Reading, so taxi number 5 took us off to my beloved Cross Keys, with the added bonus of being able to meet up with Kev too. I really couldn't have thought of a better way to round such an excellent day off like this than in the Cross Keys - really fantastic. Finally taxi number 6 took us back to David's house where I stayed the night.
- The day before the Viva
- [Thursday 16th June]
Got the train into London from Guildford and spent the daytime doing final bits of viva preparation with my supervisor. Got back to Guildford around 7ish, having decided to stay on another night. Had an extremely lazy pizza for dinner, and spent the remainder of the evening doing "nothing that involved my brain", as instructed by my supervisor.
- Guildford Again
- [Wednesday 15th June]
In the absence of any solid plans, I opted to hang on in Guildford a while longer. Liz and the kids went out for a large chunk of the daytime, giving me a chance to get some viva preparation done. After they came back I spent the remainder of the afternoon playing with the kids, mainly out in the garden as it was a relatively pleasant day weatherwise. I was quite impressed by my nephew's rather artistic "seaside" - created with a few aquatic additions to his sandpit. Superbly as the sandpit was in a big plastic container you could even rock the whole thing and make waves.
In the evening Liz made a very nice roast meal, with a particularly good leek and cheese bake. Delicious.
- ...and then Guildford
- [Tuesday 14th June]
I awoke in the morning at David's house, with a bit of a hangover. David and Simon, ever the eager employees, went into the office pretty early, and I was somewhat compelled to go with them. I picked up my bags, and wandered into the centre of Pangbourne. Thinking I would probably have to wait until after 9:30 to get a train at a sensible fare, I had a bit of time to kill, and decided to get my hair cut. After this I got on a train, making a brief stop at Reading to buy presents, before heading on to Guildford.
I got to Adrian and Liz's house around lunchtime. Had lunch with Liz, and spent the afternoon reading in between bouts of playing with the kids, who were adorable as ever. After Adrian came back we had some pasta for dinner, and then headed out for the evening to watch Star Wars Episode III.
As with the previous two Star Wars films, I had mixed feelings about it. Certainly numbers II and III have been a marked improvement on the first one, but still they somehow seem to fail to re-capture that magic of the original three films. I guess I am just too old for it now or something. Yes, it was nice to see all the loose ends tied up, and see the scene being set for the first three films, but at the same time prequels are always subject to the curse of knowing exactly what is going to happen at the end. Well anyway it made for a nice evening out regardless.
- Onto London...
- [Monday 13th June]
I left Abergavenny in the morning, Robin gave me a lift back to Newport, and I got on a train headed for London. I made a slight detour en route to go by way of my old office in Pangbourne and drop off some bags. I wasn't really sure how I'd feel, but actually I was surprisingly not nostalgic at all. I saw my old flat and didn't really bat an eyelid. It didn't feel that unusual going to the old office either - perhaps it just hasn't sunk in yet that I've actually left! Whilst I was in Pangbourne I had the opportunity to pop into the Cross Keys for a quick pint (my train was cancelled, ok?) and this was pretty great actually - having not felt much of a reaction from the rest of the places I used to hang around, I noticed a stark contrast with being back in my local - it felt greater. In many ways it still is my local, I'm just living on the other side of the world to it now!
I spent the afternoon in London with my supervisor doing viva preparation type stuff. After we'd done for the day, I headed up to Camden to meet Simon (the one I used to work with) at The Dublin Castle, where his mate's band were playing. This made for a really good night out - above all as it was great to have a good chin wag with Sinmon. I'd arranged to stay with David from work - and in fact Simon was staying there too - so rather conveniently we got the train back together and continued our discussion of life, the universe and everything. Amusingly whilst engaged in my usual drunken "We don't deserve to live in this country" rant, going on about how everyone else in the world suffers so much, I was interrupted by a Scottish lady. She said her company had tried employing people from poorer countried and it had never worked or something. So that was all a bit odd.
- More Visitors
- [Sunday 12th June]
Alex and Katie popped in to see me and Vera in the afternoon, for tea and cakes, which was very nice. For dinner I made a toad in the hole (vegetarian sausages of course) with roast potatoes etc. Not sure if Vera really like it or not - particularly the notion of vegetarian sausages - but I guess at least I made an effort! Not really much else to report really.
- [Saturday 11th June]
When I was young boy, perhaps about five years old, I remember walking along a street in a place called Usk (not far from Abergavenny) with Vera and finding a bundle of feathers - perhaps a bird's wing. At the time I was fascinated with it and had to pick it up. Vera was none too happy about this at the time, I recall, and insisted I put it back down again and wash my hands. Today, in the morning, we decided we would walk to the Waitrose on the outskirts of Abergavenny. En route, as Vera and I were walking along the street, I spotted another feather. I was fascinated with it again, and really tempted to pick it up. I couldn't help but smile as this particular childhood memory came back to me.
Anywho, after a very nice walk through the meadows in Abergavenny to get to Waitrose, we did some shopping and then got a taxi back. The rest of the day was occupied with a steady stream of visitors, which was really nice. Lucy and Martin popped round in the afternoon for coffee and cake, and a nice chat. Martin showed me his site, with some really great pictures of a wedding he's just done. Actually the bride was a friend of Lucy's, so I knew quite a lot of the people in the pictures.
In the evening Louise and Ian came round for dinner. We wanted to keep things simple, so just did a sort of light buffet type thing, with some pizza. I made a tiramisu for dessert, for the first time without the recipe, which came out OK.
- [Friday 10th June]
Another day spent at Vera and Robin's house. I was in a very foody sort of mood, so I did a fair amount of cooking today. I don't think I left the house all day. For lunch I made a Spanish omelette, and for dinner we had ravioli with some a sort of vegetable gratin I knocked together. Weather was a bit glum so it wasn't really suitable for sitting out on the terrace as we would have liked.
- Old Papers and Eating Out
- [Thursday 9th June]
Stayed in during the daytime, and spent some of the day with Vera sorting through some of her old boxes of miscellaneous stuff. Without realising it, she's kept a set of copies of The Daily Telegraph, going back as far as the 1930s, from important events in history - King Edward's abdication, President Kennedy's assasination, the day Winston Churchill died and so on. Very interesting.
In the evening we went out with Robin for a meal at a place on the road between Abergavenny and Crickhowell - the Riverside Restaurant or something. The food was very nice - and it was such a joy to go to a restaurant where vegetarians were well catered for, after all the struggling with eating out in Japan! I started with a spinach mousse, had a leek and mushroom lasage for my main course, and then a chocolate terrine to follow. All very reasonably priced too. I'm very pleased my first experience of eating out since returning to the UK has not been a disappointment!
- [Wednesday 8th June]
Robin and Vera were out at work in the daytime (Vera was doing her occasional stint at a charity shop). I took the opportunity to get some good solid preparation done for my viva. It was actually very pleasant working at Vera and Robin's place - I had the balcony doors open, was playing jazz, and looking out onto some lovely views of the Sugar Loaf (for those who don't know, it's a mountain, or at least a mountain by British standards). I wandered into Abergavenny around 4ish, as I wanted to buy a modem cable, and also met Vera off the bus. The modem cable was surprisingly successful - it seems much easier these days to set up a dial-up account. Obviously the speed was cringeworthy, having got used to some pretty "fat pipes" over the past few months, but it worked at least. I realise how dependent I've become on the internet recently - I start to panic if I spend more than a couple of days disconnected. Terrible!
Had dinner with Vera - a sort of spinach and potato cheese bake thing which was great. It was lovely weather so we were also able to enjoy a couple of drinks out on the patio, again, with the Sugar Loaf in the distance. Lovely.
- Back to England
- [Tuesday 7th June]
Woke in my hotel room in Kansai airport about 7:30, had a shower, got my things together, and checked out just after 8. The hotel is exactly as airport hotels should be - within walking distance of the terminal - none of this shuttle bus nonsense. The airport was very busy, and I spent almost the entirety of the two hour check-in time standing in various queues. The flight left around 10. I hate flying, particularly by myself, and so I really wasn't looking forward to the 12 long hours of inescapable unpleasantness. Actually though, it wasn't too bad in the end. It was a modern plane, with screens in the back of each seat, and on-demand videos. There must have been about 100 films and TV programs to choose from which was great. From the selection of films I watched Meet the Fokkers, followed by Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. I hadn't seen the two Matrix sequels before, and have to admit I wasn't hugely impressed, but they did help to pass the time rather effectively, for which I am grateful. Meet the Fokkers wasn't exactly my cup of tea either - I think a lot of the American humour was lost on me. It probably didn't help that I'd watched an episode of Father Ted first - I really couldn't believe they had this in their line-up, I was absolutely over the moon. It was the episode called "Speed 3", which actually I hadn't seen before, and it was utterly, utterly hilarious. I guess Father Ted is just a very hard act to follow.
As I was flying with KLM I had to change at Amsterdam. I landed there about 2ish in the afternoon (9 at night Japanese time), and got on a connecting flight to London about 4ish. The final leg wasn't too bad either - it was a fairly smooth ride, and this little connecting flight is normally over before I know it (only about 45 minutes in the air). We flew into England over the Thames estuary I think, and it was a lovely clear day so there were some nice views to be had - I guess I ought to have taken some pictures. I have to admit, when I saw the metaphorical white cliffs, and green patchwork quilt landscape of England I started to well up. I realised this was actually the longest I'd ever been away from England - just over five weeks. It's strange really, some people spend years on end away from their home country without ever batting an eyelid, and here was me making a big deal over a month or so. It's at times like this when I realise, for all its faults, just how much I love this (to quote Jerusalem) "green and pleasant land".
We landed in London just after 4, before we'd taken off (aren't time differences great?), and I was leaving the airport by just before 5. For a change I thought I'd get on the Heathrow Express because I didn't want to mess about with bags etc on that seemingly endless Picadilly tube journey. I went to see my supervisor in London for aout an hour and a half, before heading to Paddington to get on a train to South Wales. Robin very kindly met me at Newport station, and I got to Abergavenny about 10:30 or so. I managed to stay awake for about an hour or so after getting to Vera and Robin's house. Vera gave me some bread and cheese, and a little glass of whisky for supper, and I was absolutely over the moon.
- Last Day in Japan
- [Monday 6th June]
I didn't realise it when I woke up, but this was going to be my last full day in Japan. I'd had a provisional date for my PhD viva, and given that I would need some time to prepare I was planning to go back to England some time this week. On phoning the airline to check availability, it turned out the flights on Wednesday and Thursday were both fully booked. So I had the choice of either leaving it until Friday (which was a bit too late) or going back Tuesday - tomorrow! So I decided to go back on Tuesday. As the flight was going to be early in the morning, I needed to stay a night in a hotel in Kansai airport. So I spent the afternoon packing my things, and we headed into the centre of Hiroshima for an early goodbye dinner with Chie's family, before getting on the shinkansen about 7ish.
- Baps and Buns
- [Sunday 5th June]
Today was Lorenzo's last day with us. We didn't really plan very much - stayed in the flat until the early afternoon, at which point I had a sudden craving for afternoon tea. I'd remembered seeing that apparently there was a Cornish bakery in Hiroshima (!) and after consulting the web it turned it that it was actually within walking distance of the family's flat. So we went for a wander to find it. The lady who ran it had apparently spent a year at Cornwall College (presumably this is somewhere in Cornwall - Truro perhaps?) studying English baking. So her shop was more or less like a normal Japanese pan-ya-san, but the things in it had a decidedly English slant. We bought a real assortment, the highlight being the scones which were fresh out of the oven.
Whilst there we were accosted by a gaggle of Japanese schoolkids with baseball outfits on, thus explaining the rather strange picture, taken outside "Baps and Buns". We saw Lorenzo off at the station around 6ish, after which Chie and I had a little wander round the shops but didn't really buy anything. We went back home after a bit, and had pasta for dinner.
- Sightseeing with Lorenzo
- [Saturday 4th June]
Spent a day sightseeing in the area around Hiroshima with Lorenzo. Started off with a train journey up the valley from Iwakuni, which was not quite as scenic as we hoped it would be. After that we headed over to the famous Kintai-kyo ohashi, a humpbacked bridge (not sure how to describe this) which Lorenzo had seen my pictures of from an earlier visit and wanted to see for himself. After this we did the mandatory trip to Miyajima, which was beautiful as ever. Went back to the house in the evening, where Chie made soba meshi (like yaki soba, but with rice added) for us for dinner. Lovely.
- Lorenzo and the Yukata Matsuri
- [Friday 3rd June]
Lorenzo was coming to stay with us for the weekend, so at lunchtime me and Chie went to Hiroshima station to meet him. After a spot of lunch and a quick bit of shopping, the three of us headed back to the flat to drop off Lorenzo's bags etc. Chie had mentioned there was a Yukata Matsuri (errr, Japanese costume festival?) on in Hiroshima, and to my surprise Chie went off for a little while in the afternoon to her grandmother's house to have her Yukata fitted. This is the first time I've seen Chie in a proper Yukata, and she looked really adorable!
Around 5 or six we headed back into the centre of Hiroshima. We kicked off the evening with an early dinner at Sushi-Tei, then went for a wander round the festival. So many people had turned out in Yukata, it was really great to see (normally Japanese day-to-day dress is disappointingly western). The rest of the evening consisted of a sort of bar crawl interpsersed with wandering around the festival. We managed to fit in a visit to Bar Fukuzawa, as recommended by Watanabe-san from Quercus Bar in Tokyo. Had a Port Ellen 4th release and a Clynelish there. Also went for some ice cream at the Haagen Dazs cafe, and rounded off the evening in an izakaya I've been to before - one which brews it's own beer. All in all a very nice evening out!
- [Thursday 2nd June]
Not a particularly great day. Stayed in, didn't take any pictures, really nothing to write about.
- Beer Garden
- [Wednesday 1st June]
Continuing the "outdoors" theme of the past few days, today's main event was a visit to a "Beer Garden". It was my first time to go to one of these in Japan, and it was somewhat different to our concept of a beer garden back in England. It's basically just an outdoor nomihodai / tabehodai (eat and drink as much as you want) type of place. Ours was a sort of roof terrace on the top of a department store in Hiroshima. It cost something like 2800 Yen (14 quid) to get in, or a bit less for women, and you could then basically make as many trips to the bar as you wanted. They had Asahi on tap, plus a small selection of other drinks too - sake, sho-chu, and some dodgy looking cocktail things. The food selection was surprisingly big actually - a buffet cross section of several different styles of Japanese food. Anyway, this made for a great outing.
- Walking up a Mountain (sort of)
- [Tuesday 31st May]
After the previous day's awful display of utter laziness, we were determined we ought to get out and do some exercise today, and decided to go and walk up a mountain. So we headed over to the sort of country park place (where I've been once before) on the understanding that we'd walk up one of the surrounding mountains. It was, however, quite a hot day - about 28 celsius, which I'm just not used to back in England... So walking was really hard work, and we didn't quite make it to the top of any mountains. We got halfway up, errr, somewhere or other. We'd definitely climbed a fair bit, but the paths were all a bit confusing, and it was hard to tell which mountain we were climbing. Anyway, one way or the other we had a decent walk, and also managed to fit in a spot of lunch whilst out.
- Mostly Indoors
- [Monday 30th May]
Got up at a shamefully late hour and had an appallingly lazy day in general. Only went out for a short while, towards the end of the afternoon, to go to the video rental place and the supermarket. Had an Italian sort of dinner, I cooked some pasta and made a big salad. Spent some of the evening studying Japanese, learnt a few new kanji etc. Really not a very eventful day all in all!
- [Sunday 29th May]
Spent the daytime on Miyajima, the famous island just off the coast from Hiroshima where some of Chie's family live. As it was a hot day (by English standards) my main reason for going was to visit the beach and have a swim... Although it wasn't until I got there that I realised I would be doing this alone - apparently it was still too cold for the Japanese to swim in the sea. It's been quite a while since I've had a good dip in the sea, so this was really great. Afterwards went for a bit of a walk, and visited some of Chie's family on the island. Headed back to the mainland around 6ish, and spent the rest of the evening back at the flat. Had sort of roast potatoes for dinner (it's a Sunday) cooked with some really excellent rosemary we'd taken from Chie's aunt's garden on Miyajima.