John Hawkins



Dr John Hawkins

Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff, home to a huge load of pictures, and my daily blog.

My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.

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Recent Entries:
Pre-Holiday Fire
Looking for Roger's Place
Working Late
Off Sick
Okonomiyaki
Long Slog Back to London
Simon's Stag Do
Work Nights Out
Ramen
The Record of a Tenement Gentleman
A Short Essay on Japanese Women and Their Career Aspirations, or Apparent Lack Thereof
Ai-san
Andy's Fiancee
Eating too much
Work Night Out
Productivity
Between a wok and a hard place
Hospital, Sloane Square Pubs and Oliveto
Ochazuke no aji
Babysitting
Not Talking Shop, and Simon Visiting
My Favorite Year (sic)
Dinner at the Office
Rice and Miso Soup
Olive and Tomato
Work work work
Pub Lunch

Pre-Holiday Fire
[Thursday 26th June]
Not unsurprisingly (given that it was the last day in the office before my holiday) a huge fire erupted at work today. It was one of those which seriously threatened the future of the project. Typical really, things had been going pretty smoothly at work over the last few weeks, and I was naively hoping for a nice peaceful tail off before I went on holiday. Then this happened. Of course I can't really talk about the details, but suffice to say a very big deal was made about it by people in the higher echelons of the project, and somehow, as often seems to happen with these things, the requirement of actually trying to fix it seemed to rest almost entirely on my shoulders. Despite working until very late (again) I couldn't resolve the problem within the space of a day, and there was absolutely no way I could even consider postponing my holiday. So instead I made a start on a disaster recovery program, and left behind instructions for my colleagues for how to proceed with that. Oh well, I did my best.


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Looking for Roger's Place
[Wednesday 25th June]
Given all the long hours at work this week (particularly the knowledge that tomorrow - my last day at work before our holiday - would inevitably be another late one) I thought it proper to have at least one evening where I left the office relatively early (well, after 7), and have a quiet relaxing evening.

So after dinner (Chie made a Spanish omelette) we sat down to watch a DVD - another one Chie had got from Love Film. It was a Vietnamese film called something like "In The Height of The Summer" and we both had a vague feeling we'd seen it before. I failed to find it very captivating though, I seemed to be much more interested in looking at maps of Cornwall in preparation for our holiday.

In particular, I have this picture on the wall of our flat that I am rather fond of. It's called "Roger's Place", and is a picture of a shack in a bay, with a view out to sea and along the coast. When I bought it I had no idea where it was at all. However, when my Uncle came to see he pointed out you could see what appeared to be large satellite dishes off in the distance, which he thought was probably Goonhilly Downs in Cornwall. So there was a good chance it was taken somewhere near the Lizard peninsula, which coincidentally is not too far from where we'll be staying next week.

So I spent some time on the web again trying to find where it was, and eventually scouring the coastline using Google Earth (which incidentally I don't use very often, and was hugely impressed with)... but alas to no avail. So instead I tried all sorts of image searches, and some combination of "shack" and "Cornwall" eventually found an image, that, albeit differently coloured, and from another angle, did look a bit like that same shack. Thankfully the image actually had the name of the place - Millook. Further searches for Millook found a lot more images of that iconic shack, untl I had managed to convince myself it was indeed one and the same place. Oddly, this was actually in North Cornwall though, and you wouldn't be able to see Goonhilly Downs there at all.

Anyway, I feel extremely satisfied that I've worked out where the picture is, and if although it's a bit of a trek from where we'll be staying next week, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that we could go on a bit of a road trip to actually find the place.

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Working Late
[Tuesday 24th June]
Was back in the office today, for the first of only three days this week, given that I'll be off on holiday on Friday.

I had to stay late at the office today to handle a big switchover with one of our partners. Given that I had to be dialed into a teleconference bridge the whole time, I decided to find myself a room where it wouldn't disturb other people (I normally work in an open plan space). I found a meeting room that was normally used by marketing, and had seemingly been left abandoned for the whole day. So I took that over, and rather enjoyed the feeling of having my own office for the day. I'm not sure I've ever really liked open plan offices.

As Chie was out in the evening I just ate at the office as well. I stayed at the office until well after 9, and then went home and just continued to work from there - I think I finally signed off about 1:30AM.
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Off Sick
[Monday 23rd June]
The cold I had picked up towards the end of last week had worsened, to the point where I thought I'd better stay at home today. At my company it seems people seldom actually just take a day off, instead when ill, they "work from home". Which was what I did today - and actually I got rather a lot done, away from all the distractions of meetings etc.


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Okonomiyaki
[Sunday 22nd June]
Having not seen much of each other for most of this week, I decided me and Chie should spend some "quality time" together today, which somehow translated into going shopping.

All in all nothing much to report really.

In the evening we had okonomiyaki for dinner - it's a fair while since we've made these at home. Jolly nice.
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Long Slog Back to London
[Saturday 21st June]
So today was the longest day, and it certainly did seem to drag a bit.

I was about to start the account of the day with "I woke up at David's house down in Cornwall..." but the reality is I had hardly slept. Having been forced to share a bed with a chronic snorer it hadn't been a particularly peaceful night. I was feeling quite sorry for myself, not only was I tired, but had the inevitable hangover (quite a bad one) and had stomach pains (the old hernia) plus on top of all that I seemed to have picked up a cold.

Simon's stag do was intended to be a whole weekend affair, but I really wasn't feeling up to another night of it. Towards the end of the morning all the other guys went out fishing, and I decided I should probably just head back to London.

It was a long and arduous journey, starting with the pleasant walk to the nearest village, then a decidedly bilious bus journey to Bodmin Parkway. I then had a fair old wait there until the next train back to London.

Once finally on the train I decided I needed some comfort, and possibly some peace and quiet, so I upgraded myself to First class (only costs a tenner at weekends apparently). So that made it all a lot more bearable.

I got back to London around 7:30, and headed straight back to the flat. Chie was out meeting Sawako-san (who we had met on Islay last September) but I didn't really feel in a fit state, so pretty much just went straight to bed.
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Simon's Stag Do
[Friday 20th June]
My friend (and esteemed former colleague) Simon is getting married in August, and this weekend was the obligatory stag do. Our mutual friend David (also an esteemed former colleague) has a sort of family hoilday home down near Padstow, which I'd been to once before (just before I went off to Japan, in April 2005), and that had been chosen as the venue.

So I left work at lunchtime today, with the intention of working from the train during the afternoon. This plan was moderately successful, thanks to the 3G dongle thingy I got from work, but as the train got further into the depths of the West country reception became increasingly patchy, and so eventually I gave up.

I arrived in Bodmin Parkway just before 6:30, and from there took a bus in the direction of Padstow. David's house is actually a little way out of Padstow, so I got off the bus in some little village in the middle of nowhere. I then had a mile or so's walk down a country lane, which was actually surprisingly pleasant, despite there being a spot of drizzle. It was very tranquil - not another living soul to be seen or heard - a huge contrast to the bustling streets of London I had left behind earlier that afternoon.

I got to David's house just before 8. Most of the attendees were already present, and it was a fairly large turn-out - probably around 15. From then on it was, not unpredictably, a fairly boozy affair. David had bought a couple of boxes of Doom Bar, and I'd also contributed a bottle of Laphroaig Cask Strength. Food was laid on in the form of a barbecue (which gave the collected blokey blokes a further opportunity to make tedious remarks about me being vegetarian), and there was of course the inevitable "entertainment" which appears to be unavoidable at stag parties. I was surprised that you could find that sort of, errr, service in such a rural area. Ahem. Thankfully that didn't last too long, as the "artist" was blocking the way to the beer.

Other highlights of the evening included my conviction that we were going to be featured on a future episode of 999, as some of the chaps (not me, I hasten to add) were rather ill-advisedly having a swim in the pool after a large number of beers. Including typical blokey horseplay, dive bombing etc.

It also turned out that one of the chaps was a mobile disco DJ, and had a car full of disco lights, etc. It was pretty much unavoidable that these were all set up in the lounge, although the actual sound system remained a rather un-discoey iPod based setup. David has one of those Bose iPod docking station things, which gave surprisingly good sound, and as it turned out a number of us had iPods with us, we managed similar functionality to dual turntables simply by swapping which iPod was plugged in at the end of each track.

The frivolities continued into the wee hours, well, until about 2AM. Given that I was one of the later arrivals, it transpired my only option for sleeping was to share a bed with another former colleague - Rich - who, were snoring an Olympic sport, would soon be packing his bags and heading for Beijing.
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Work Nights Out
[Thursday 19th June]
One of Chie's Japanese colleagues was leaving the UK, and so tonight she went out for the obligatory farewell drinks and karaoke.

I also had bit of a work night out, as a couple of guys were visiting from our head office in California, and I felt it only proper to take them out for a couple of beers at the pub near the office. Nothing particularly special, but it was a pleasantly warm evening so we stood outside. Which was nice.
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Ramen
[Wednesday 18th June]
Chie was planning to go out with some people from work tonight, and so I planned to stay late at the office. However in the end her plans fell through, which meant we could have dinner together. One of the other goodies Ai-san had brought with her from Japan was ramen - Chie had managed to find a variety of instant ramen with vegetarian stock on the web, so had arranged for it to be sent to Ai-san's house in Japan, and then carried by her to the UK.

It is probably hard to convince any of you how nice Japanese instant ramen is, given that it is effectively their equivalent of the Pot Noodle. So I won't try, but you'll just have to trust me that this was actually very nice, especially with the added accoutrements of some lightly steamed broccoli, and a splash of home made chilli oil. Lovely.
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The Record of a Tenement Gentleman
[Tuesday 17th June]
Chie came to my office for dinner, and after that we headed back home for a quiet night in - what with Chie having a couple of work nights out planned this week, and me planning to be away at Simon's stag do for the weekend, it was important to have some "quality time" together tonight.

So we decided to watch a film - another Ozu DVD Chie had recently received from Love Film. Tonight's feature was "Nagaya shinshiroku" which apparently translates to "The Record of a Tenement Gentleman" (although I didn't really understand this title, as the main characters were an old lady and a young boy).

It was shot in 1947, which makes it the earliest Ozu film we've seen so far, and I was quite surprised to learn that Japan was even making films this soon after the war. Whilst there are a few references to life in post-war Japan (the difficultuy of buying things, the family people lost in the war, etc), it's not really a story purely about that, but still for me it was a fascinating insight into what life was like at that time. Whenever it comes to the war and Japan, all we ever hear about in the West is kamikaze pilots, appalling massacres, terrible treatment of PoWs and so on. This has, of course, always been very much at odds with the people for whom I have a deep affection today. I suppose I'd always in part separated the two just by the fact the war was 60 years ago and Japan had changed a lot since then, but seeing this film drove home the reality that many aspects of Japanese culture just haven't really changed. The film paints a picture of people full of warmth and with a strong sense of community. They are not wallowing in defeat, but instead are remembering how horrible the war was, and are elated at the fact that it is over. Not unlike post-war films in the West really - to the average civilian war was something imposed on them, not something they ever actually wanted.

The main plot of "Nagaya shinshiroku" revolves around an apparently abandoned boy who is taken in begrudgingly by an initially rather mean old widow, who inevitably softens up and grows very fond of him. I suppose you could call it formulaic, but then it was made over 60 years ago, and so it probably would be fairer to say that many other films have borrowed from this one since. Certainly the central theme was quite reminiscent of a few recent Japanese films - such as Kikujiro and Always san-chome no yuhi.

As always it featured my favourite Chishu Ryu, albeit again in a fairly minor part. As seems to be a case in many of the Ozu films, Ryu sings at one point in this, and although the song has no real relevance to the film, it is an oddly spellbinding moment. Whilst Ryu's acting is often a bit wooden at times, he does have this odd enigmatic quality about him, and I am starting to understand why Ozu was always so keen to get him in pretty much all of his films.
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A Short Essay on Japanese Women and Their Career Aspirations, or Apparent Lack Thereof
[Monday 16th June]
Chie's friend Ai-san had stayed at our flat the previous evening, and her flight was not until the early evening today. As she was at a bit of a loose end I invited her to my office for lunch, with which she appeared to be suitably impressed. I took a long lunch break - almost two hours - and Ai-san and I had a long girly chat about her job, love life, and plans for the future. It turns out she still doesn't really know what she wants to do in the future, a theme I have found common amongst a number of Chie's friends. In fact this is also true of Chie herself - she's very much the sort of person who just takes the first job that comes along, and only really does it because it pays the bills.

In some ways Japan is a bit behind the West in terms of social attitudes - the notion of a woman having a career is still a relatively new phenomenon. It is strange though, a lot of Japanese women I've spoken to (which of course may not be an entirely representative sample I should add) seem to feel like they ought to take advantage of this newly gained freedom to have a career, but then are lacking in any real ambition in terms of what they actually want to do with it. Perhaps it's a reflection that there is still an imbalance in the job market, and there just aren't that many inspiring opportunities for Japanese women out there. Still, I have developed a bit of a paternal instinct for Chie's friends over the years, and it is a bit sad to think of all these bright young women having such a lack of ambition. I would love one day to meet a Japanese woman who is doing a job she really loves, and is convinced that it is exactly the right thing for her - but then thinking about it I don't know many men like that either - Japanese or otherwise.

Not much else to report. Pretty standard evening. We had Japanese curry for dinner, Ai-san had kindly brought a whole bundle of Japanese essentials with her. Very nice.
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Ai-san
[Sunday 15th June]
Chie's friend Ai-san was in the UK again this week. She works for an airline in Japan, and whilst she only really does domestic flights in her job, she does get very cheap flights through the company, and appears to rather like the UK, so visits several times a year.

(What a stark constrast to yesterday!)

Chie had planned to meet Ai-san and a friend of hers in the afternoon for dim sum, and whilst I too was invited I thought it better to just leave the girls to it. I stayed at home, tidied up a bit, and spent some time on the computer.

Ai-san had arranged to come and stay at our flat this evening, and so I also spent some of the afternoon preparing dinner. I was feeling quite enthused at the idea of cooking today, so decided to do a lasagne, and also a porcini risotto as a starter. Both seemed to go down rather well.
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Andy's Fiancee
[Saturday 14th June]
Andy is a hugely entertaining chap who we got to know through Chie's former colleagues, from when she used to work in Maidenhead. Last time we saw him he told us he'd recently got engaged to a Japanese girl, who was coming to live in London. Given that she'd inevitably be suffering a bit of culture shock, and didn't really know anyone else Japanese in London, he suggested it might be nice for her if the four of us could meet up and go out for dinner.

So that's what we did this evening. I'd initially suggested we ought to go somewhere very British - like a pie and mash shop or something - but after some consultation she apparently preferred the idea of going for a curry. Andy had proposed Brick Lane, but all the advice I'd ever had on the subject suggested to stay well away from Brick Lane itself, and instead go elsewhere in the general area.

So after a bit of research on the web, and the Time Out restaurant guide, I decided we should give Cafe Spice Namaste a go.

We met up at Aldgate East, and had a quick drink at a dodgy looking pub on Brick Lane, mostly because Andy was desperate for the loo. We then headed from there to Cafe Spice Namaste.

I have to admit to being a little underwhelmed. The Time Out review had been a glowing one, albeit that it had mentioned the place was a bit on the expensive side. The menu did sound quite interesting, a break from the usual standard fare of Indian restaurants, but ultimately nothing I had was really that exciting. Strangely there was a whole section on the menu for "vegetarian accompaniments" but not really any actual vegetarian main courses. So I ended up with what amounted to a couple of side dishes, and frankly I have had better in cheaper, grottier Indian restaurants. Andy was rather more upbeat about his meal (although he does seem to be much more of a glass half full type), but the girls weren't exactly bowled over. Chie left some of hers, and all our other dining companion had to say about the place was how expensive it was - she didn't issue forth the almost obligatory "oishii" (Japanese for tasty) even once.

I felt rather downhearted by this. Not that I'd had a bit of an overpriced and underwhelming meal, but that the new arrival from Japan appeared to be really very down in the dumps, clearly experiencing a lot of culture shock and home sickness. I had hoped some good food might cheer her up a bit, and the one thing I thought we could do reasonably well in the UK was Indian food. Especially given that I had actually researched this place and everything...

It was quite a surprise really, how clearly unhappy she was. Japanese people, particularly women, are not often very open about their feelings, particularly with people they have only just met. She, however, really seemed to have nothing positive at all to say about being in the UK. When asked what she thought of London, her immediate response was "dangerous!", and that was it - not followed up by any mild compliments or anything.

I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. Chie, to some extent, had always been cushioned somewhat in the UK - both at university and in the jobs she's had since then, she has always been surrounded by lots of other Japanese people, right from the start. That's not to say living away from home isn't still hard for her sometimes, particularly how difficult it is for her to visit her family, but she has never been short of a Japanese ear to confide in whenever she has needed it. Andy's fiancee on the other hand doesn't really know anyone yet - although I'm sure that will soon change, there's a pretty strong Japanese community here in London, the downside being that she isn't currently working, so she doesn't have so many opportunities to meet new people. I completely understand what it is like when you first go and live in a foreign country without anyone from your own country around you. Whilst I look back on my time in Japan with fondness now, at the time (as this blog well attests) there were many trials and tribulations, and I was frequently quite homesick. I never really had the support of a group of fellow ex-pats - the whole time I was there I never got to know any other British people there at all (OK, apart from Dale, but he lived in Kyoto and I lived in Tokyo, so we didn't see each other very often).

Anyway, after dinner, given that finding something Andy's fiancee might actually like about London had become my new goal in life, I suggested that we take a stroll over Tower Bridge, as it was only about 10 minutes away from the restaurant. This, I thought, would be a sure fire hit - even though I've spent a good three years of my life in London (and a few more living not too far away) I still get awe struck whenever I see some of the grander parts of the Thames, particularly when they're all lit up at night.

So, it was a very pleasant evening, the sky was nice and clear, the bridge was lit up beautifully, and there was a great view along the river... I was all set up to hear the usual excitable Japanese utterances in these sorts of situations ("sugoiiiii!", "kireiiii!"), but alas nothing was forthcoming. If she was in any way impressed, she was doing a very good job of hiding it.

I had actually pre-planned the little stroll as part of my research earlier that day, even to the point of locating a nice little pub over the other side of the bridge - The Anchor Tap. It was my first time to go to this place, and to me it was a beautiful little pub - Andy also seemed rather taken with it - but once more his fiancee seemed pretty non plussed. Well I suppose women in general don't get the same sort of hazy eyed reaction to lovely old pubs that us chaps do, but still, there aren't many opportunities to drink in places that are over two centuries old in Japan, and it ought to still provide some historical / architectural interest.

We stayed in the Anchor Tap until closing time, then Andy and his fiancee got a taxi home. Chie and I decided to walk back over the bridge to get the tube from Tower Hill. To our delight, Tower Bridge was actually opening up just before we were about to cross, so a tall ship could pass through. It is quite a spectacle to behold and we both thoroughly enjoyed it - I think the last time I had seen this up close I'd been a small child, visiting London with my family. It's a real shame this hadn't happened a bit earlier, because then Andy's fiancee would have been able to see it from their taxi. It almost felt as if the bridge knew this. You know, like fairies won't show themselves to people who don't believe in them.

So all in all a bit of a shame, my meticulously planned evening out, full of what I expected to be safe bets for showing off London to a newly arrived Japanese person, was a big flop.

Still, it wasn't a total loss - Andy said afterwards that his fiancee did really appreciate having the opportunity to talk to Chie though - they had spent most of the evening chatting and we did actually see her smile now and again.

No doubt we'll have more opportunities to do this sort of thing again, and I shall keep endeavouring to find something about London that she can actually enjoy.
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Eating too much
[Friday 13th June]
I suppose I am quite a superstitious person, seeing that date written down always makes me a tad nervous. However, I am pleased to report nothing untoward happened today. In fact nothing much at all happened really. Just an absolutely bog standard Friday - went to the usual beer and pizza thing at the end of the working day (and thankfully, unlike last week, this wasn't spoiled by too much work related conversation), and then went home. Made macaroni cheese for dinner.

I definitely ate too much today, and at bedtime I felt horribly bloated.

- Cooked breakfast on arrival at the office (vegetarian sausages, mushrooms, has browns and baked beans.
- Ravioli for lunch with a bit of salad on the side.
- Some Jaffa cakes after lunch, with a cup of tea.
- A bit of cake mid-afternoon (it was someone's birthday, I felt rude to refuse)
- Two small slices of pizza and some nachos.
- Macaroni cheese for a late supper.

Not good!
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Work Night Out
[Thursday 12th June]
There was a concerted effort this evening, which for once I wasn't at the core of, to get as many people from the team as possible out to the pub after work. It was a pretty good turnout - around 8 of us - although the venue chosen was a little underwhelming (rather unimaginatively the pub nearest the office).

Anyway, after a drink or two, I was determined not to let it turn into one of those evenings where we all drink all night on an empty stomach. So I persuaded a few of my colleagues to go for some Chinese food - at Kym's - the place I'd been to a few weeks back with Chie. Not sure my colleagues really took to Shaoshing, but still I think they enjoyed the food at least.

I have something of a pet project in this area. We're all relatively well paid, and working right in the heart of one of the most interesting and diverse cities on the planet - so surely work nights out can occasionally extend to something a little more imaginative then just a couple of pints at the nearest pub? Tonight's outing wasn't exactly hugely ambitious but I see it as a step in the right direction.
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Productivity
[Wednesday 11th June]
I had an extremely productive day at work, where I rather selfishly just ignored all the distractions, chores and requests for help which normally fill my days and prevent me from getting anything done, and instead just wrote a load of software. It felt great.

Chie was out in the evening so I just kept on working. I was so nose-to-the-grindstone that I forgot all about dinner and was forced to improvise on the way back to the flat. I had the proverbial "bag of chips on the way home", and then spent the remainder of the evening enshrouded with the appropriate level of guilt as a result.
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Between a wok and a hard place
[Tuesday 10th June]
The awful pun in the title has no other relevance than I actually used my wok this evening. Following a number of disappointing failures whenever I've attempted to make Chinese food at home I had pretty much given up trying, and as such my trusty old wok had fallen into disuse somewhat.

Tonight though I was somehow emboldened to give it another go. Despite a very poor showing at my local supermarket in terms of interesting Chinese ingredients (note to self - go to a proper Chinese food shop at some point in the near future) we managed to gather together enough odds and ends to make a vaguely passable meal. I did aburage (a thin, deep fried Japanese tofu) and vegetables with hoi sin sauce, and Chie made ma po tofu. They both came out reasonably well (Chie's was better, on balance).
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Hospital, Sloane Square Pubs and Oliveto
[Monday 9th June]
Went to the hospital for another consultation after work. Having satisfied himself that it definitely isn't anything else (like a muscle strain or something), the surgeon is now recommending I go in for surgery. Don't have an exact date yet, but I'm hopefully aiming for mid July. It sounded like it would hopefully just be day surgery, although I was surprised to hear the surgeon recommend I take up to two weeks off work afterwards. Well, it'll probably be a nice chance for a good rest.

Just like the last couple of times I went to the hospital, I felt a bit out of sorts after finishing there this evening, and as it was still only 6:30 and a pleasant early summer's evening, I thought I would go for a bit of a wander. I walked to Sloane Square, and once there determined there must be a nice little pub somewhere in the vicinity at which I could park myself and mull things over. I found just that - a very nice little pub called The Antelope. Very nice interior, although the clientele were a bit on the posh side. I also sampled the nearby Duke of Wellington which didn't have quite the charm of The Antelope, but was still a perfectly reasonable little boozer in and of itself.

I'd given Chie a call earlier, and suggested she come straight to Sloane Square from work, on the premise we could meet up for dinner. Actually though we ended up walking back from there towards Victoria, as there was an Italian restaurant we'd been wanting to try for a while.

So we had dinner at Oliveto - Chie had heard about it because it is apparently very popular with London's Japanese community, and sure enough once we got in there we did find at least two tables of Japanese diners.

I was altogether very impressed, albeit a bit on the pricey side. I ordered a pasta dish (bavettine ai crudo) then pizza ai funghi, Chie had sardines for a starter and "spahetti ricci". It was all very well made, but certainly not cheap, and the prices seemed a bit random - my very simple pasta dish, effectively a starter, was a surprising £13. My pizza on the other hand, very large and lavishly topped with some extremely tasty porcini, was under a tenner. The bavettine was quite good, but not really worth the money. The pizza on the other hand was ludicrously good. I just don't think there could have been any conceivable way to improve it.

I would definitely go again, but I'd probably just stick to the pizza next time.
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Ochazuke no aji
[Sunday 8th June]
We'd stayed at my brother's house the night before, and so were woken up early by the kids.

After breakfast with the family, Adrian gave us a lift to the station, and we were back in London by 11.

The weather was quite lovely day today, and we originally planned to go and sit out in the garden for some of it, but ended up lethargic and just stayed in most of the day, with the exception of a trip out to the supermarket.

I fancied a G&T in the afternoon, and we'd ran out of 'G', so at the supermarket I got a new bottle. Ever craving new and different things, I thought I'd give Blackwood's gin a go this time. It was jolly nice - very refreshing.

Made curry for dinner, although was a little disappointed with the end result. Every time I make mutter paneer it seems to come out differently. I remember a while back making one that came out very well indeed (apparently over a year ago!) and since then I've never quite been able to recreate it. Ho, hum.

After dinner we watched an Ozu film Chie had recently got from Love Film - Ochazuke no aji. The title means "the taste of green tea on rice", which was in this context a metaphor for the simple things in life.

It was a tale of arranged marriages and the Japanese class divide, both aspects of Japanese culture which have gradually dwindled away over the last 50 years. It featured all the usual telltale traits of Ozu films, the first person perspective shots of the actors during dialog, the strange cut away scenes, the gentle observation of a country undergoing huge cultural change, and best of all my favourite Chishu Ryu, albeit only in a small part in this one.

Weekly New Year's Resolution Status:

1) Doing stuff in London. Pretty good here - went to see that musical my friend from work was in on Thursday, plus also a nice stroll through the centre on Saturday afternoon.

2) Meeting up with old friends. Did pretty well here too (although without any planning on my part) - saw Simon Friday night / Saturday morning.

3) Exercise bike. Not as good as previous weeks here - only got on once this week, and wasn't feeling 100% either, so just did 20 minutes / 7.4km / 152.8 cal.
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Babysitting
[Saturday 7th June]
In the morning we took Simon and his friend Rich out to our favourite nearby greasy spoon for an English breakfast. They were both at a bit of a loose end for the rest of the day, so we decided to hang around with them for the early afternoon. We walked into the centre of London, stopping off at a couple of my favourite pubs en route - the Ship and Shovell, and the Lamb and Flag.

After saying goodbye to Simon and Rich, Chie and me did a quick bit of shopping before heading back home to get some things together, and then got the train down to Guildford. As it was my brother's birthday this week we'd arranged to babysit the kids, so him and Liz could go out to the cinema.

Had a very nice meal at Adrian and Liz's house, sitting outside in the rather spacious back garden at their new house. They did home made miniature pizzas, made from scratch, which were quite superb - the dough came out extremely well.

After dinner they got the kids ready for bed, and then went out for the evening. The kids were no trouble at all, we read them all stories and they all went to sleep quite happily.

Not sure why people make such a big deal about parenting, seem easy to me!

(ok, before you all flood this entry with your "oh wait 'til you have kids" comments yes this was meant flippantly)
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Not Talking Shop, and Simon Visiting
[Friday 6th June]
Went along to the usual end-of-the-week beer and pizza event which was great to start off with as we were having a fun conversation about entirely non work related things (we had an Australian and an Irish person present, and I posed them the question of which of them found their countries' respective fake pubs in the UK more offensive). Inevitably though later on the conversation turned to work matters and not even a particularly fun work related conversation, so I decided to call it a night.

Chie was out for the evening, so when I got back I was at a bit of a loose end initially, and actually ended up doing some more work. Starting to get a bit worrying - I feel like I don't really have anything better to do with my time.

Later on in the evening though my friend Simon and his friend Rich came to stay over - they'd been to a Foo Fighters concert in London and it wasn't very feasible for them to get back to their respective homes the same night. Stayed up for a while chatting and drinking Highland Park, which was nice.
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My Favorite Year (sic)
[Thursday 5th June]
A guy I work with (actually, technically he now works on a different project, but anyway) is something of a Thespian in his spare time. I'd often heard him talk about his other career at work, but until today had never actually had an opportunity to see him on stage. He'd mentioned last week he was going to be in this musical, and I'd eagerly gone and booked tickets.

It's not the sort of thing I would normally have gone to see - originally a Broadway musical about a 1950s TV show - but I was fascinated by the concept of seeing someone who I only knew as a software engineer engage in a performing art.

It turned out to be highly entertaining, and my colleague was particularly excellent. All in all it made for a very nice evening out - as the weather was quite summery, both Chie and I walked from our respective offices to Blackfriars where we met up and had dinner at the Black Friar. After the show we also hung on a bit at the bar in the theatre to congratulate the assembled lovies on a superb performance. All very cultural, and a big tick in the "doing something in London" check list.
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Dinner at the Office
[Wednesday 4th June]
Not much to report. Chie came to my office for dinner, other than that nothing to say really (other than today is my brother's birthday!).
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Rice and Miso Soup
[Tuesday 3rd June]
Not a very eventful evening. I fancied Chinese takeaway for dinner but somehow by the time it came to actually phoning them up I lost my enthusiasm. Instead we decided we ought to try and make something from the odds and ends we had in, and we eventually settled on a very simple Japanese meal - rice, miso soup, and a few pickles and things. Probably a better bet than a greasy takeaway anyway, as Chie had been suffering with a stomach ache a bit.
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Olive and Tomato
[Monday 2nd June]
Really nothing to report. Had very lazy pasta for dinner, with my that Sacla olive and tomato sauce I rather like. That's it really!
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Work work work
[Sunday 1st June]
We had originally planned to go walking somewhere in Kent with people from Chie's office today, but Chie wasn't feeling 100% (a bit of a stomach ache) and the schedule was somewhat oppressive (it would have meant leaving the flat before 9AM on a Sunday!) so we eventually decided to give it a miss.

Instead we pretty much stayed in all day, and again I devoted a lot of the day to work related stuff.

Weekly New Year's Resolution Status:

1) Doing stuff in London. Not a huge amount this week - went to see Indiana Jones on Thursday (OK you could do that anywhere, but I went to a nice little independent cinema, which are harder to find outside the capital) plus the pub lunch at the Holly Bush yesterday. Odd that by coincidence both of these things were in Hampstead.

2) Meeting up with old friends. Nobody this week.

3) Exercise bike. Did 20 minutes / 9km / 173.3 cal on Tuesday and 20 minutes / 8.3km / 152.8 cal on Sunday. That's a total of 17.3km, or 10.75 miles. Quite pleased with that.
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Pub Lunch
[Saturday 31st May]
Spent most of the day working - recently I have felt the need to put in quite a lot of overtime, as there has been just too much to get done in regular office hours.

Did make a brief foray out in the afternoon though. Chie wanted to go to the agnès b. sale that was on at their shop in Hampstead, and this seemed like a good opportunity to combine a spot of shopping with a pub lunch at the Holly Bush, a fabulous oldey worldey down-an-alleyway pub in Hampstead we discovered a few months back.

On the way back we stopped off at Rice Wine Shop to stock up on essential Japanese provisions, and back at home in the evening had Japanese food for dinner.
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