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
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Main Index (text only)
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Bread, Walking and Farm Animals
The Maison de Stuff is Back!!
Erika's Tweed Cap
Iris's Birthday Party
15 Years Since Radstock
Breakfast with Chie and Erika
Crawling, Santini and Cairdeas
Back in London
Tokyo to London
Saturday in Tokyo
Erika and Chie Return to Tokyo
The Day of Two Pizzas
Ueno Work Night Out
Ginza and Yurakucho
Monday in Tokyo
Sunday in Hiroshima
Saturday in Hiroshima
Friday in Hiroshima
Thursday in Hiroshima
Wednesday in Hiroshima
Tuesday in Hiroshima
- Bread, Walking and Farm Animals
- [Saturday 29th June 2013]
Erika and I popped over to Bermondsey in the morning to buy bread from the St. John Bakery. I've been to their restaurant a few times now and always really liked their bread, so was pleased to have the opportunity to buy some to have at home. It's also in quite an interesting sort of "market" - on Druid Street there's a series of railway arches, and a few of them have now turned into foodie shops. It's a bit like Borough Market, but without all the crowds, or the stupid ostrich burgers.
I also bought some doughnuts, and some cheese from one of the other shops. So when Erika and I returned home from our little shopping trip the three of us had a funny sort of brunch of bread, cheese and doughnuts. It was very nice.
After that we went along to the sort of fete thing that was happening in Pimlico today. It was pretty naff to be honest - last year there had been a few farmer's market type stalls, and I'd managed to pick up some cider. This year though it was just all the rubbish bits from a village fete - the raffles etc - without any of the interesting things to eat and drink.
They did at least have a corner devoted to Vauxhall City Farm though - and they'd brought along some farm animals, which Chie seemed to enjoy far more than Erika.
Also Erika's walker arrived today - she's very close to walking all by herself now! Here's a video of her taking her first few steps without anybody else holding her:
- Tom Yam
- [Friday 28th June 2013]
Made a tom yam soup with choi sum, beancurd puffs, and mock abalone for dinner. I rather enjoyed it.
- School Visit
- [Thursday 27th June 2013]
We went to look at a school for Erika first thing this morning - apparently it's the sort of thing you have to start thinking about really early on. The state schools near us don't look very appealing, and we're fortunate enough to be able to afford it, so we'll likely end up sending her to an independent school. This is the first place we've actually done a tour of, and we both found the experience a bit overwhelming. Particularly the bit where you're put on the spot and asked "Any questions?" - I feel like I ought to have something really insightful to enquire about, but the whole concept is so new to us both that we're really not sure what we're supposed to be asking. Oh well, at least we've made a start.
The school we went to look at was in Chelsea, and we walked back to my office from there by way of Belgravia (thus the picture of the Veuve Clicquot themed shop window on Pont Street), and the three of us had breakfast together before I started my day's work.
- The Maison de Stuff is Back!!
- [Wednesday 26th June 2013]
Regular readers will have noticed the site was unavailable for most of this month - sorry about that! The domain registration expired, and it's actually owned by Jon rather than me, so it initially took a while just to get in touch with him, and then took a while to get it re-registered. I'm actually not sure when it popped back up again - some time this week I think - I didn't actually notice until Friday.
The good news is that this encouraged me to take a backup of the entire site, having at one point feared I might need to find a new home for it.
- [Tuesday 25th June 2013]
A couple of random pictures of Erika, a propos nothing in particular.
- Erika's Tweed Cap
- [Monday 24th June 2013]
When at Kyle and Hannah's place recently, I'd mentioned in passing that I'd tried to find a tweed cap for Erika, and was surprised to discover nowhere seems to sell them in baby sizes. So I was really touched when Hannah very kindly offered to make one for her, and Kyle gave it to us today. I absolutely love it, and consequently took lots of photos today of Erika in it - including a particular favourite in which I'm also wearing my tweed cap.
I left the office quite early today - just after 5 - so I could meet up with Chie and Erika (and have her try on her hat!) and go to Chinatown to buy things for dinner. I made a few courses as I always seem to now - vegetarian "duck" pancakes, tom yam soup, choi sum in a garlic, ginger and sake sauce with bean curd puffs, and a dish of ho fun with some odd spicy tofu I also found today.
- Iris's Birthday Party
- [Sunday 23rd June 2013]
Our friend Iris from our NCT group invited the three of us along to her birthday party today - a picnic in St. George's Square gardens. The weather wasn't particularly great but it was just about good enough to stay outside for at least a couple of hours. It was also a good opportunity to catch up with most of the other mums and dads from our NCT group, and see how all of their babies were getting on.
- 15 Years Since Radstock
- [Saturday 22nd June 2013]
Had a reunion today for the former residents of Radstock road in Reading, to mark (more or less) 15 years since we graduated. Of the total 8+1 (including honorary resident Tom) occupants of number 2 over the two years we were there, we managed to get 6 of us back in Reading today - which was a pretty good turn out - although it was a shame to have missed Lorenzo, who was stuck in Italy for work reasons.
The format followed something similar to the last time we did this - we met on campus, went for a wander around (today there was an open day on so lots of campus was, err, open), then went down to Radstock Road to have a look at the house, then went to the pub. Where we sat outside overlooking the canal, and Rob ate crisps off the floor.
I had to leave relatively early on, as Chie has been having a bit of a hard time the past couple of days, and I needed to give her a hand with feeding, bathing etc. So the time I had with the chaps seemed to pass extremely quickly, but nonetheless it was an utter delight to be surrounded by these familiar faces once again, and they remain some of my absolute favourite people of all time.
- [Friday 21st June 2013]
Went to TGIF for a bit - out on the balcony even though it wasn't a particularly warm day today. For the remainder of the evening Chie went to her Hiroshimakenjinkai and I stayed in to look after Erika.
- [Thursday 20th June 2013]
Made an Aperol Spritz and a Parfait Amour Spritz. The latter was not very good.
- [Wednesday 19th June 2013]
Took Erika to the pub (the Star Tavern in Belgravia) with a couple of people from the office, while Chie was having her hair cut, which was a slightly odd experience.
- [Tuesday 18th June 2013]
Went to Waitrose in the evening and took a stroll through Belgravia.
- Breakfast with Chie and Erika
- [Monday 17th June 2013]
Chie and Erika came to my office for lunch.
In the evening went to the Duke of Wellington for a bit with Andrew, Iain and Kyle.
- Regent's Park
- [Sunday 16th June 2013]
Apparently today was father's day - I hadn't given it much thought as Mother's / Father's days are something we've never really paid any attention to in my family. However Chie (or should I say Erika?) has decided to set a precedent, and they'd made me a card, and gave me a gingerbread man with "Super Dad" written on it.
Erika was a bit uneasy today, and Chie clearly needed a break in the afternoon, so I took Erika out for a bit. We went for a bit of a stroll around Regent's Park, which was quite pleasant. On the way back we stopped off at Sainsbury's and bought things for dinner - I made a roast meal, something I'd of course had a mild craving for, having been away for a few weeks. Erika had her first roast potato (well mostly the insides thereof) and the rest of the cauliflower cheese I'd made for her dinner yesterday.
- Shirts, etc
- [Saturday 15th June 2013]
Had a wonderfully self indulgent morning today. We woke quite early (thanks to Erika) and were all washed, dressed and out of the flat well before 9. We decided to head to the Regency for breakfast to start off the day - which was excellent as always - and then from there walked in the direction of St. James's, via St. James's Park, where they were setting up for Trooping the Colour.
I'd decided I wanted to get some made to measure shirts from Turnbull and Asser, so we spent a delightful hour in there whilst I was measured up, trying on sample shirts, choosing the style of cuffs etc, and finally choosing the cloths for the two shirts I was going to have made. The member of staff I dealt with was extremely pleasant, and very knowledgeable, and the whole experience was just splendid. Better still while we were in there an elderly gentleman popped in wearing a top hat and tails, carrying a cane, and with spats over his shoes. He was someone from another era - and nobody in the shop batted an eyelid.
After that we did a bit of browsing around on Bond Street - very nearly bought a pair of raincoats in Daks - then Chie suggested we take a break and go for tea/coffee at Browns Hotel.
After a bit more browsing our thoughts turned to lunch, and we decided to go for dim sum at our old stalwart, Royal China, after which we headed home.
We popped out again briefly in the afternoon to go to the supermarket - and were caught in a torrential downpour - really funny weather today.
In the evening we'd been invited to Kyle and Hannah's down in Dulwich for a party to celebrate World Gin Day (yes, that exists!) which also doubled as a sort of birthday party for Kyle. We didn't stay too late as we had Erika with us, but I think my bartending skills were appreciated, and I furnished a few people with Negronis and Aperol Spritzes.
- [Friday 14th June 2013]
The weather had been pretty rubbish so far since we'd returned to London, which had not escaped Chie's attention, who cited it as the reason Erika was taking longer than usual to recover from her jetlag. So I was rather delighted when today turned out to be blue skies and sunshine, particularly as it was a Friday, which meant TGIF out on the balcony at the office. Erika and Chie came to join us in fact, which went further to cast being back in London in a more positive light.
- Crawling, Santini and Cairdeas
- [Thursday 13th June 2013]
Erika is sort of crawling a bit now. Backwards. She seems determined to move about, but typically ends up in an awkward position, or stuck somewhere, and therefore quickly gets upset about it. The pictures from today show her partially under a chair as a result of this behaviour, although in this instance she actually looks quite pleased with herself.
Today was Kyle's birthday. I took him out for a pleasingly upmarket sort of a lunch at Santini in Belgravia (where the Rothschilds took the Clintons when they were visiting the UK - it's that sort of place). We didn't invite anyone else as Kyle's the only other person at the office who makes a bit of an effort to dress well on a regular basis, and it isn't really a jeans and trainers sort of place.
Also, on a bit of a whim I'd ordered this year's Laphroaig Cairdeas bottling - a special bottling they only offer to friends of Laphroaig. It's been quite a while since I've bought any whisky actually, and the St. Andrew's Day Supper I held polished off all the odds and ends of Laphroaig I had. This year's is a port finish which is quite unusual for whisky in general, and particularly for Laphroaig. Not entirely sure it really worked for me, but I suppose it was at least a bit different.
- Summer Party
- [Wednesday 12th June 2013]
It was my company's summer party this evening (or at least the one for engineering), for which they decided to return to the same venue as last year - the Kensington Roof Gardens. Unfortunately it's at least partly an outdoor venue, and the weather was pretty miserable. There's also a bit of a low mood in the office at the moment - at least among the people I know. In addition to my team having been mostly disbanded, several people are leaving the company altogether, and there's a definite sense of the end of the party. Which is how tonight's more literal party felt pretty much right from the start.
- [Tuesday 11th June 2013]
Went home by way of the Middle Eastern food shop near the flat, and bought things for a simplified version of the Middle Eastern meal we usually have - essentially this time just falafel and ful medames with some salad and flat bread.
- Back in London
- [Monday 10th June 2013]
No rest for the wicked - to conserve holiday and maximise time in Japan I was straight back in the office in London today, with only really one night to recover, of which I of course only slept part of thanks to jetlag.
Today was Erika's 9 month birthday, so as a combination of that, and to try and ease Chie and Erika gently back into their daily routine, I invited them to my office for lunch.
- Tokyo to London
- [Sunday 9th June 2013]
Flew from Tokyo back to London today. I was a bit grumpy for some of the flight. I think I got off on the wrong foot at check-in, where I asked the woman behind the desk a question, and she responded in Japanese to Chie as though I wasn't there. This rude habit is quite common in Japan, but I would expect better of a member of staff of a British airline who must deal with non-Japanese customers every day. Once on the flight I continued to be annoyed by lots of different things - Premium Economy was packed as always, despite the economy section having lots of spare seats. Whilst premium has more leg room, wider seats etc, what I really want is to be as far away from the other people on the plane as possible, and on all last two round trips to Japan economy has seemed like a better bet from that point of view. Of course you can't really know that when you book, and a packed economy cabin would be the absolute worst case scenario.
The food was disappointing too. I've given up ordering a special vegetarian meal because I have a suspicion I end up with the same food I would have eaten in economy, and there's always a vegetarian option on the standard menu in premium on Virgin. This time though the only starter on the meny was something with prawns in - I asked if they had something else, and they told me I should order a special vegetarian meal if I'm a vegetarian. So why is there always a vegetarian option on the standard menu then?
I also became more grumpy on being asked to close my window blind, so I then had to sit in a cabin which was both dark as well as overcrowded. I really don't understand how people sleep on planes in general, but in particular the Tokyo to London flights we get are daytime flights - they usually leave Tokyo around midday, and land around 4pm (which is midnight in Tokyo). It doesn't make any sense to be asleep during the time of this flight.
We landed around 4pm, and got home around 6pm - a good half an hour of that was spent waiting in the queue for immigration - even for people with UK passports it is still ridiculously long at Heathrow.
- Saturday in Tokyo
- [Saturday 8th June 2013]
I'd sort of imagined Chie would have planned a busy social schedule for our last day or two in Tokyo, but actually we didn't really have a huge amount on.
In the morning we met Masumi-san for breakfast - she was working today so was only free until 9 or so.
We weren't really sure what to do with ourselves after that. Chie wanted to try the vegan ramen place in Tokyo station which I'd been to by myself on a previous trip to Tokyo, and that sort of set the agenda for the daytime - we ended up spending most of it around Tokyo station.
I particularly enjoyed visiting the Imperial Hotel - they have a sort of shopping arcade of upmarket shops in the basement there, and I found a traditional barber shop among them, so decided to have a hair cut there.
I also tried out the Old Imperial Bar at the Imperial Hotel, while Chie met a friend in the station, which I really enjoyed. It's in the region of a hundred years old - the only part of the hotel which still has the original Frank Lloyd Wright design - and in a way it's the sort of Tokyo equivalent of the American Bar at the Savoy in London. I think it was one of the first bars serving cocktails in the city, and was quite instrumental in introducing cocktails to Japan.
In the evening, after a very quick dinner at Chien-Fu (again, mainly because it's easy), Chie went out to meet another friend, and I stayed in to look after Erika.
- Erika and Chie Return to Tokyo
- [Friday 7th June 2013]
Erika and Chie came back to Tokyo today today - they were at my hotel when I came back from the office at the end of the day, which was rather lovely.
We didn't have any particular plans so we just went out to an Indian restaurant in Roppongi in the evening (called Moti, apparently quite famous in Tokyo) and then came back to the hotel. After Erika went to sleep Chie and I had a half bottle of Champagne, for no real reason other than we felt like treating ourselves. We had this with some grapes and chocolate Chie's friend at the hotel had sent to our room, and I was reminded of our last stay in Monaco. There's something rather nice about decadent lounging about in hotel rooms.
- The Day of Two Pizzas
- [Thursday 6th June 2013]
I found myself craving pizza this evening. After a bit of research (mainly Time Out Japan's best pizza in Tokyo article) I decided to head in the direction of Naka-Meguro, which I'd barely heard of as an area, but seems to have quite a thriving restaurant scene. Once there I headed to Da Isa which felt very Italian throughout - from the decor of the place (including tables spilling out onto the pavement - not so common in Japan) to the pizza itself.
Somehow I then hit upon the notion of going to a second pizza place afterwards and having another pizza. Largely, I suppose, because I was by myself, and there was no-one around to tell me I shouldn't. So I headed to the slightly more bizarre Seirinkan, which only has two pizzas on the menu (margherita or marinara) and had an odd sort of "steampunk" decor. I think I overall preferred the first place, but there was an interestingly succulent quality to the crust, which I believe has something to do with brushing salt onto the outside of it.
- Ueno Work Night Out
- [Wednesday 5th June 2013]
I'd spent a total of four weeks working in Tokyo so far this year, and actually hadn't yet properly gone out for an evening with the team I work with there. So it seemed it was high time to address that, and this evening a large group of us went to a beer garden in Ueno. It was on the edge of the park, atop a hotel or something, and had quite a nice view, (of which I neglected to take any pictures) but was surprisingly windy. I'd been quite worried I'd find it too hot on this trip so it was oddly a pleasant surprise to be a bit on the cold side.
We were shoed out when the place closed at 9, and from there proceded to try and find a venue for a "niijikai" (second party). We had a surprisingly large group of people still - more than 10 - although I did notice a disproportionate representation of ex-pats in the people who were still left at this point. Lots of the bustling izakayas in the alleyways of Ueno were full, but we eventually found one with an outdoor table big enough to accomodate us. Most of the pictures of the evening are actually from this second venue, which was perhaps a bit more run-of-the-mill than the beer garden, but by this point everyone was a bit more jolly, so there was quite a good atmosphere.
- Ginza and Yurakucho
- [Tuesday 4th June 2013]
I dropped a batch of shirts off to be laundered first thing this morning, and wished I'd done it yesterday, as it turned out they would take until Thursday lunchtime, and I was already wearing my last clean shirt. Oh well.
In the evening I was in the mood for pasta, and decided to try out one of the other branches of Al Dente, the spaghetti place in Shinjuku I was introduce to by Lorenzo, which is still a firm favourite. I found they have a branch in Ginza, which would actually work out a bit quicker to get to from my office in Roppongi - especially as there was an entrance from Ginza station pretty much straight into the Sony Building, in which Al Dente was housed. It was a smaller branch, not quite the same atmosphere, but the menu was the same and the food was pretty much as good.
After that I wandered around Ginza a bit but found myself heading inexorably in the direction of the vending machine bar in nearby Yurakucho. I initially planned to just have one quick drink then head back, but whilst there I got talking to some of the regulars (yes, the vending machine bar has regulars) who were surprisingly friendly and welcoming. I had the impression of it being the sort of very down-at-heel locals kind of place where "tourists" might not be welcomed but actually that wasn't really the case, and they just seemed very pleased to have the opportunity to meet someone new.
- Monday in Tokyo
- [Monday 3rd June 2013]
I got the shinkansen to Tokyo in the morning, and was at the office by lunchtime. I worked the afternoon and some way into the evening, so I think I still more or less managed to put in an eight hour day.
I dithered over what to do for dinner, but in the end just went back to Chien-Fu, the vegetarian Taiwanese place very close to the hotel / office in Roppongi. It's just an easy option I suppose - it's so close.
I didn't really feel like going out anywhere after that, and actually I rather enjoyed what was left of the evening, luxuriously lounging around in my room at the Grand Hyatt.
- Sunday in Hiroshima
- [Sunday 2nd June 2013]
My last full day in Hiroshima of this trip. Again, not a huge amount to report really. Again we went to visit Chie's Dad, who seemed to be making a good recovery.
We also tried out Hiroshima's (relatively new, and I assume only) vegan cafe for lunch. It wasn't bad - I had a sort of assortment of "deli" items on a plate , including a tofu burger, a potato kuroke and a soy lasagne.
- Saturday in Hiroshima
- [Saturday 1st June 2013]
Not particularly eventful really. Chie's Mum and Grandma were in a hula dancing show this afternoon (!), which Chie and Erika went along to watch, but I decided to leave them to it. They also went to visit Chie's Dad, so I was left to my own devices for quite a lot of the day. Had I been in London I could have easily found things to do to fill the time, but being away from home I was quite at a loss for what to do. I did a couple of hours work, although wasn't really in the mood for it, and after that just idly wasted time on the internet.
Had veggie kara age for dinner.
- Friday in Hiroshima
- [Friday 31st May 2013]
Chie had arranged for us to go on a tour of the Mazda car plant this morning - neither of us are particularly into cars (we don't own one, for a start) but Chie generally likes these kind of factory tour things, and besides it was within walking distance of where Chie's parents live, so it seemed like something we might as well do at some point.
So not really my sort of thing, but I suppose seeing the actual production line (unfortunately we couldn't take pictures there) was sort of interesting. Possibly the highlight for me was that we were given a 50% discount in the coffee shop afterwards!
We headed into the centre of Hiroshima after that (well, the main station anyway, which isn't exactly in the centre) in order to find something for lunch, before then heading off to the hospital again to visit Chie's Dad. He's likely going to be there about a week while he recovers from the operation, and it was good to see that he was already up and walking again today.
After that we got a taxi back to the Moriwaki's flat, and pretty much stayed in the remainder of the day - other than popping out briefly to buy things for dinner.
- Thursday in Hiroshima
- [Thursday 30th May 2013]
We pottered in and around Chie's parents flat in the morning and afternoon, waiting news of Chie's Dad's operation. In the afternoon we popped out a bit for a couple of local errands, and had some coffee and cake in a cafe next to the nearest station.
In the early evening, after feeding Erika, we headed over to the hospital, having had the news that the operation was over, and Chie's Dad was awake and ready for visitors. He was obviously in a lot of pain, but although only just about able to speak he was clearly delighted to see Erika who, undeterred by the hospital setting, was her usual bubbly self.
On the way home we stopped off at a kaiten sushi place (kaiten are the ones with the conveyor belts). Chie's Mum had been at the hospital since first thing this morning, and I got the impression she hadn't really eaten much, and was tired and in need of a bit of a pick-me-up.
It was a surprisingly high tech place - there were chutes for disposing of the used plates - every five plates you had a chance of winning a toy - and a second conveyor belt for delivering made-to-order dishes. On top of that there were touch screens for placing your orders, and a self service beer machine.
These sorts of extremes - from the anxiety and apprehension before the operation, to the silliness and frivolity of the sushi place afterwards - feel quite familiar to me in Japan. Time spent here in the past has often been a bit of a rollercoaster of highs and lows, and I've heard other people describe it similarly.
- Wednesday in Hiroshima
- [Wednesday 29th May 2013]
Didn't take any pictures today - somehow it didn't feel appropriate with Chie's Dad's operation looming.
Chie, Erika and I got a taxi to the hospital around 11, and then I looked after Erika for a while so Chie could be with her parents whilst the doctors talked to them about the operation. The hospital wasn't close to the centre of Hiroshima, and there was pretty much nothing in the immediate vicinity, so it wasn't easy to kill time.
After Chie had finished talking to the doctors, we went for lunch at a nearby Grazie Gardens (the Italian "famiresu" chain we used to go to quite a lot when we lived in Japan). It's incredibly cheap, and I always used to think the quality wasn't bad considering, but I guess my tastes have moved on a bit.
After that we headed back to the flat where I remained the rest of the day - and ended up doing some work (until about 2AM, as a bit of an issue had occurred), but Chie, Erika and Chie's Mum popped back to the hospital to see Hirofumi-san again in the evening.
- Tuesday in Hiroshima
- [Tuesday 28th May 2013]
Chie's Dad went into hospital today, in preparation for the operation which would be on Thursday.
Did a bit of shopping in the afternoon, including buying a couple of books for Erika. I'm quite impressed by how sophisticated some of the offerings for children are in Japanese bookshops. A lot of the "books" are in fact elecronic musical toys. There was a whole range of them, from the slightly less surprising drum kits and tambourines, to things like the dashboard of a shinkansen, with accompanying sound effects. We got Erika a toy smartphone, as she always seems quite interested in ours (probably because she sees us using them so often). IT's a lot more sophisticated then anything you'd be likely to find in the UK - different sequences of numbers start different conversations which you can then interact with. We also bought her a more traditional sort of pop-up book type thing, which again is impressively intricate and detailed.
Also bought some ingredients for the Thai curry I made in the evening.