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)
- John's Travel
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Ice Cream
Nothing Much Again
Back to Dull Again
A Very Dull Day
How to Make a Bloody Mary in Japan
Beach and Fireworks
Mexican and Programming
Italian Lunch and Visiting Relatives
Back in Hiroshima
Koyasan and Kobe
Back in Japan
Travelling back to Japan
A Flying Visit to England
Last day in Seattle
Flying to Seattle
Names ending in K
Dr John Hawkins
Day before Graduation
Back to Reading
Mrs Beddoe and Old Photos
Friday in the Midlands
- Ice Cream
- [Sunday 31st July]
Got up late today, as usual, so breakfast (toast and miso soup) was late, which also pushed back lunch (cold noodles) somewhat as well. Didn't want to stay in all day, so headed out around half past three. I decided we should go and find a nice cafe somewhere in the centre of Hiroshima to have an ice cream in. After a bit of wandering about we found a place called Chiamata - an Italian stlye gelataria. The ice cream was good, but, although it may sound an unusual complaint, the servings were just too big. I didn't feel confident managing the Mount Fuji of gelato they gave you in a cone, so I went for a cup instead, but for some reason there didn't seem to be an option to have two different flavours in a cup. Even the nicest ice cream becomes a bit tedious after a while if it is all the same flavour!
Didn't do much after this - just went for a cup of tea and then got the bus back home basically. In the evening had a very nice vegetarian ma po tofu made by Chie's mum, and some hawasbasi (wasabi leaves) we'd managed to by a jar of in the centre of Hiroshima. Drank the bottle of sake I'd bought in Tsuwano the other day, which was very nice too.
- Natsu Matsuri
- [Saturday 30th July]
Like last weekend, Chie was working again in the daytime. I spent most of the morning and some of the early afternoon fiddling about on the computer. About half past two I went for a walk to go and meet Chie at the shopping centre place where she was doing her part-time job, selling broadband to cinema goers (?!). Went back to the same shopping centre again later on to pick Chie up when she finished, and after a quick dinner, we went over to the part of Hiroshima around where Chie's grandparents live. Here there were a couple of events on for the natsu matsuri - summer festival. We first went over to a jinja - shinto shrine - so a priest could wave a stick at us (as is often the case, I may not have fully understood the religious implications of this ceremony). After this we went to a supermarket car park, where there were stalls selling things-on-a-stick, and dancing. Stayed there until the mini festival thing finished, and then spent a bit of time with Chie's grandmother before heading back home.
- [Friday 29th July]
Had a lovely day out, most of which was spent on trains. We got up early, to get on a long slow train from Hiroshima to Yamaguchi. At Shin-Yamaguchi we changed trains for the main event - a ride on the steam locomotive that would take us North to Tsuwano. The train was fantastic - a real, genuine steam train. Even the carriages were interesting - each took its style from a different era of Japanese train travel. The ride on the way out was just about 2 hours, and we arrived at Tsuwano around 12:30.
Tsuwano was an interesting town in itself, just like many places in Japan it was referred to as "little Kyoto". We had a couple of hours there, and took the opportunity for a general wander around, including the inari jinja up on the hill, and tanomachi dori in the town centre. Having toyed with the idea of going back by a different route, we determined in the end it would be quickest, easiest and cheapest to just retrace our steps and go back the way we came. So we got back on the stream train just after 3. Had a brief stop off around Shin-Yamaguchi on the way back for an early dinner, and then got a train (sadly just a normal electric one) from there back to Hiroshima. A very nice day out!
Took quite a lot of pictures today, and also a few video clips. May be of interest to anyone who has a secret liking for steam trains!
- Nothing Much Again
- [Thursday 28th July]
Not a hugely eventful day again. Waited in for most of the morning for a phonecall from an agency which never materialised. As always by the afternoon it was too late to really plan anything properly - we really ought to get into the habit of planning the night before! I was determined to get out of the house, but Chie didn't seem too taken with my plan of just getting on a train and seeing where it took us. So for a change I went out by myself, and randomly went to a town along the coast called Kure. It was OK I suppose, nothing that exciting or anything, but it was just nice to get out, even if there wasn't any actually point to it. I got back around 6ish from my pointless outing. Chie made gnocchi for dinner, which were actually very nice, although a bit deformed. Didn't do much the rest of the evening, just drank a bit of wine and messed around on the computer a bit.
- Back to Dull Again
- [Wednesday 27th July]
Well it seems the day before did not mark the start of a whole new attitude, as just one day later it was back to business as usual - not doing very much at all. Dinner was nice though - Chie's Mum made tempura, and everything was cooked perfectly. After dinner Chie and I did what is now becoming a bit of a routine - went out for a walk to buy ice creams. We don't seem to have learnt much though - the ice creams, as always, were pretty much melted by the time we got home, so weren't all that great. I also bought a small bottle of sake which helped the remainder of the evening to pass a bit quicker.
- [Tuesday 26th July]
The day before this had been an unbearably bland day, and I wasn't prepared to repeat it. Spurred on by Danny Wallace in his excellent book Yes Man, I decided to try out a day of saying yes to things. So we headed into the centre of Hiroshima, with no particular plan, other than that I would say Yes to every suggestion that presented itself...
[Click here to read more...]
- A Very Dull Day
- [Monday 25th July]
Today was an exceptionally dull day during which I did, if I may borrow from Monty Python: Nothing. Bugger all. Not a sausage. I became quite fed up with this towards the end of the day and decided to just give up and go to bed not long after dinner. Actually I didn't go to sleep for several hours though, as I sat reading Danny Wallace's Yes Man until gone midnight. After what had seemed like a slow start (probably my fault rather than Danny's) I have really got into this book. This was in fact exactly the kind of motivation I needed at the start of what was looking dangerously like a very dull week. I decided that, starting tomorrow, I wouldn't just sit around thinking I couldn't be bothered to do anything, and would instead take a leaf from Danny's book - quite literally - and say yes to every suggestion that came my way. Well, for a day at least.
- How to Make a Bloody Mary in Japan
- [Sunday 24th July]
A largely uneventful day, the highlight of which being a while spent in the evening experimenting with Bloody Marys. It's all very well doing as the Romans for a bit, I'm a big fan of sake, sho-chu and Japanese beers... but eventually I find myself longing for something a little more, well, British. Technically speaking the Bloody Mary perhaps isn't British - I think it may well be Franco-American (see here), however, I'm not going to let little details like that bother me...
[Click here to read more...]
- Beach and Fireworks
- [Saturday 23rd July]
Had a lazy morning and early afternoon, which appears to be becoming something of a routine. Mid-afternoon ish we decided to go for a swim, so went to a beach which was a short train journey from the flat. It wasn't exactly an ideal beach - it is very hard in this part of Japan to get very far away from civilisation, and it is weird to me to go for a swim in such a built up area! Still though, the water seemed, well, relatively clean - I'm sure it can't be as bad as the legendary floating turds at Skegness! Ahem.
We got the train back around 6ish, just in time before the rain came pouring down. Conveniently the rain shower seemed to last about the same length of time as our train journey, and by the time we got off it had stopped. Amazingly, for Japan, the train had actually been delayed (!) although seemingly not for a significant period of time. I wonder if it was something to do with the sudden downpour?
On returning to the flat, we sat in darkness for part of the evening as the fireworks display was on in the centre of Hiroshima, of which we had a good view from the living room window. The more modest fireworks were obscured by a small mountain, but in a way this added to the effect - it looked really great seeing the explosions happen over the shoulder of a silhouetted mountain, and it put me in mind of a line at the end of Bladerunner.
- [Friday 22nd July]
Stayed in the flat in the daytime, and didn't really do very much. Towards the end of the afternoon we decided to head over to Miyajima where the Kangensei festival was going to be taking place. I have to admit I didn't really understand the full cultural implications of the festival, it just seemed to have something to do with boats!
We got to Miyajima just before 6, and started off with a quick look at the tori (which just means gate basically) - the last few times I'd been it was high tide, but this time it was low tide, so I was keen to take the opportunity to stand underneath the tori and take some pictures. After this we went for what seemed like quite a long walk to the other side of the island, which no doubt seemed a lot harder than it actually was, because of the heat. We went to the same beach I'd been to before a few weeks previously, only it was a lot quieter this time - maybe because of the time of day. We had a brief swim, and then spent an hour or so lazing around on the beach, drinking beer and eating otsumami (edamame, some kind of nori tempura stuff and some jagariko). This was really, really nice, I felt so relaxed just lolling around here.
After it got dark, we thought we probably ought to go and see something of the festival, so walked back towards the main bit of the island. We were just in time to catch one aspect of the festival - where a load of people holding lanterns beckon the boats into the shore, where a smaller tori and shrine are. This was very nice, and I was particularly pleased at being given my very own lantern with which to do some good solid beckoning. We left Miyajima not long after this, getting the ferry back just before 10.
- Mexican and Programming
- [Thursday 21st July]
Spent a large part of the day doing some programming work - Rob had asked for a new feature in Photo Studio. It had been a long time since I had worked on the program, so it took a while to get back up to speed - especially as I was now using a completely different version of the development environment and so on. Still, I got there in the end, and it felt good to be doing something productive.
We went out for a bit in the afternoon to do a spot of shopping - and again to go somewhere with better air conditioning than we have in the family's flat! I decided I was going to cook tonight, and given the hot weather and everything it seemed appropriate to have a Mexican dinner. I even managed to get hold of some Sol and Corona, so we could really do the works! It came out rather well, even if I say so myself. I realised that, similar to my programming task, cooking was something that I hadn't done for a while, having spent the last few weeks staying in hotels and other people's houses. It felt really good actually, and I reminded myself how much I enjoy being creative in the kitchen!
- Italian Lunch and Visiting Relatives
- [Wednesday 20th July]
Went out in the daytime to visit Chie's grandmother (on her mother's side) and her great aunt. Had lunch at an Italian place called La Sette in Hiroshima, which was very nice, albeit perhaps a bit on the posh side, somewhat unnecessarily. As it was lunchtime and in the week, the place was full of Japanese housewives having lunch with their friends. Spent some of the remainder of the afternoon at Chie's great aunt's house, where I struggled to keep up with the conversation, although was at least able to get the gist (jist?) of it.
I finally got round to buying some new RAM for my laptop today - it had been struggling along on a pitiful 256MB, so I went out and got another 256 to bring it up to 512 - apparently the maximum it can handle. I find RAM highly confusing, and am never particularly sure which is the right one, a problem somewhat compounded by having to buy it in Japanese! Still, following a brief confusion over how much I had installed (Windows reported me having less than I actually did, because some was "purloined" for video RAM), I did seem to have got the right one, and the performance was notable improved.
- Nothing Really
- [Tuesday 19th July]
Had a very lazy day in Hiroshima, did pretty much nothing really! Was still suffering a bit from jet lag, although was beginning to return to a more normal sleep pattern... Really nothing much to write about!
- Back in Hiroshima
- [Monday 18th July]
Today was my first full day back in Hiroshima since I'd left for England, six weeks ago to the day. We didn't do a great deal, as I was still getting over my jet lag (or jisa boke as the Japanese call it) and also seemed to have contracted a bit of a cold - probably from the plane. Went out in the afternoon to do a spot of shopping, and partly just to go somewhere with good air conditioning, as it was bloody hot! Not much else to report really!
- [Sunday 17th July]
Spent most of the day in and around Kobe. In fact this is the first time I've ever visited the city proper, although have been through it on the train many times. We started off with a visit to the famous Sawanotsuru sakagura (sake brewery), which is now a museum. I found this really interesting - and for once actually sat through and watched the video thing (I usually find these tedious in museums) and learnt a few bits and pieces about the sake brewing process. In reality probably not that much has sank in - I am still in a similar state to before, being vaguely aware it is made from rice, and there's a lot of washing and polishing involved.
We had Italian for lunch, and after that went for a wander around Kobe, taking in Chinatown and the city hall, which has some great views out over Kobe. Kobe seems to be a really nice city, although I have to admit finding it a bit of a struggle to get around - a combination of triple jetlag and a developing cold left me really short of energy. To save money we decided to get a bus back to Hiroshima rather than the usual shinkansen. I usually kick up a fuss about this - assuming bus journeys to be long, tedious and uncomfortable, but actually it wasn't that bad... not to mention it was half the price of going by shinkansen!
- Koyasan and Kobe
- [Saturday 16th July]
We woke early - about 6ish, to go and pray with the monks in the temple we were staying in. This is the second time Chie and I have done this, and it was quite a different affair to last time - a lot smaller and more intimate. The room was very dark and atmospheric, and it was hard not to be caught up in the whole thing. It was shorter than the time we'd done this in Kyoto as well - maybe only 30 or 40 minutes, which suited me fine as I'm no good at sitting on the floor for any great length of time. After this, breakfast was served, again in our room. My appetite had clearly started working again - my stomach had been growling a bit during morning prayers to my embarassment - and so I enjoyed this breakfast immensely.
After breakfast there was the task of getting clean at hand. To my embarassment, I have to admit having something of a psychological problem with communal baths in Japan, which are commonplace in this type of traditional inn. I am always self concious in Japan about being out of place, being stared at because I'm obviously somewhat different looking, and doing the wrong thing and offending people. All of these concerns are somewhat heightened by the prospect of being naked as well! I was determined however, that this time in Japan I was going to start conquering these fears, and learning to adapt more to the Japanese way of life. So for the first time ever (OK with the exception of one visit to an Onsen - but it was dark and I was drunk!) I thought sod it, I am going to go and use that communal bath. Chie gave me a little lecture beforehand on all the dos and don'ts - basically the bath itself is clean water and should stay clean. So you wash by the side of the bath before you get in, sitting on these funny little stools, and making sure you don't splash lots of soapy water into the bath. As with all these things it wasn't too bad in the end, I pretty much had the room to myself, there was just one guy leaving as I was entering.
I was still fairly early in the morning - to me at least - when we checked out of the shukuboh. We spent the remainder of the morning having another wander around Koyasan. There really are more temples than you can shake a stick at, and unlike Kyoto they're all in walking distance of each other, as it is only a small town. I took an absolute ton of photos, and probably the pictures describe that morning's wanderings better than any text here would.
We left Koyasan arround midday - and I particularly enjoyed the return journey on the sort of cable car thing that does the last bit of the mountain which is a bit too steep for the train. We ate lunch on the train, and arrived in the centre of Osaka around 2ish. After meandering about for a bit doing as we pleased - having a waffle and a beer, we headed over to Chie's cousin's house, somewhere between Osaka and Kobe.
We arrived at Chie's cousin's house around 4, and yet again I succumbed to a nap not long after arriving. I'm probably not handling this jet lag particularly well! We headed out at around 8 for what we believed was going to be an Italian restaurant - but when they told me the name - Ygrec - I suggested it may actually be French. My suspicions were confirmed on arrival, it was indeed French, and also rather posh. French food is notoriously bad for vegetarians, so I had pretty much consigned myself to a meal of beer and a couple of bread rolls. Actually though, following a bit of negotiation with the chef, they laid on a special menu for me which was actually very good. I always think flexibility is a sign of a good chef!
- Back in Japan
- [Friday 15th July]
I had been away from Japan almost six weeks in total. Yes - I had achieved a lot in that time - finishing off my Phd, even managaing to fit in the graduation ceremony, as well as spending a good chunk of time with pretty much every member of my family, and also going to America and back for an interview. Still though, it had meant I had been away from Chie for a long time, and the last final slog to get to her - 35 hours of air travel over five days - had seemed really ardurous. So you can imagine how utterly over the moon I was when I walked through the arrivals gate at Osaka Kansai airport, first thing Friday morning, and saw Chie standing there waiting for me. It just couldn't have been any better.
Chie had arranged a treat for our first day back together again - we were going to go to Koyasan, a town not too far from Osaka up on top of a mountain, which was full of temples. We were going to stay in a shukuboh again - a traditional Japanese inn based in a temple, as we'd done once before in Kyoto.
We got to Koyasan around 1ish, and after a quick spot of lunch and a bit of a wander around we went to check in at the shukuboh. By this time I was knackered, so I had a nap in the afternoon while Chie went off for a further wander by herself for an hour or two. Dinner, at 6, was served in our room, and we had Shojin Ryori - the traditional food of Buddhist monks, and for once it was actually a genuine one, totally vegetarian, not a drop of fish stock in sight. Having only just woken up, and my digestive system being in revolt as a consequence of double jetlag, I didn't have a great appetite, and couldn't really do the feast justice. What I did eat was great though - particularly the Koyadofu - a type of freeze dried tofu, which apparently originates in Koyasan (thus the name). There is something special about the terroir, which wine (and whisky) connoiseurs often talk about - things have this strange habit of tasting best in the place they were made. Wine is best tasted in the vineyard, whisky in the distillery, and Koya dofu - well, naturally, in Koyasan.
After dinner we had a monk come to our room to teach us some caligraphy. We had this sort of tracing paper stuff to write out a big long prayer. Chie did this very nciely indeed, my sheet of paper was somewhat more messy and ilegible, but still, it was a very interesting experience nonetheless.
- Travelling back to Japan
- [Thursday 14th July]
I was up before 6, and after a short tussle with a giant spider which I suspect may have crawled into my bags in America, I checked out of my hotel and got the coach to Heathrow. I was flying KLM again, which meant I started off with a short connecting flight and the now familiar change in Amsterdam. I employed a bit of boyish charm when I checked in, and managed to get myself excellent seats on both flights - with loads of legroom. In fairness I doubt there were that many other passengers who would be racking up about 35 hours in the air during that week, so it wasn't entirely unjustified to imply that I was at an increased risk of getting DVT. So the first flight from London to Amsterdam was over in a flash as always. The second flight was, well, OK I suppose - it could have been much worse. Having a decent amount of legroom was a big plus. On the downside it wasn't one of those planes with video on demand - there were just the usual big screens in the ceiling. The films were really awful too - Million Dollar Baby, which had also been on the flight to Seattle; some Japanese film I'd never heard of; and the Phantom of the Opera - none of these even remotely my cup of tea. The food was remarkably bad as well - my main meal being an indescribable goo, the only word I can think of to fit it being "slurry". Still, I had a couple of good books - I finished off Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure, and started Danny Wallace's Yes Man. The first of these two being particularly appropriate as it involved Dave getting on a lot of planes, and, superbly, going to Seattle - twice. I also managed to find someone to talk to for a while - even though my immediate neighbours were Japanese and didn't seem to speak any English - at the back of the plane I found a fellow insomniac staring out of the window, and we had a nice chat about Japan, anthropology, and monkeys. So I guess all in all I mustn't grumble - yes the food and the entertainment were awful, but still the time seemed to go relatively quickly (compared to previous flights to Japan).
- A Flying Visit to England
- [Wednesday 13th July]
Everybody said "wouldn't it be easier to just get a flight from Seattle straight back to Japan...?" Yes, it would of course mean less flying hours, but in terms of arranging tickets and perhaps more importantly visas, it would have been a lot more complicated. So I was left with the unusual situation of flying back to England for one night only. The flight from Seattle arrived just before midday as a result of the time difference. I decided I would go mad if I had to spend a whole day hanging around in the airport, so opted instead to go to Reading. I got the coach there and arrived in Reading by about 1ish, ran a couple of errands in the town centre, and then pretty much checked into a hotel and went straight to bed.
After an afternoon nap, I headed out around 6ish to see if I could meet up with anyone for a drink. Rob and Kate were planning on going to the cinema, but very kindly abandoned that plan to go for a drink with me instead, and better still Byrnie came long too. I had a hankering to sit by the Thames, and thought at first about going to a pub in Reading called Three Men in a Boat, which, despite the superb name, I had oddly never been in before. As it happened it was closed, so instead we went to a different place across the road, which was probably just as good. It was really great to have this interlude amidst my travels, and be surrounded by some familiar faces, and I'm extremely glad I didn't just stay in the airport in the end. Concious that I still had another leg of my insane week of travelling to go, I didn't stay out particularly light, and was back in my hotel room by 11.
- Last day in Seattle
- [Tuesday 12th July]
My return flight wasn't until the afternoon - around 3:30, so I was determined to make use of my time in the morning and actually see something of Seattle other than just the airport, the hotel, and the office buildings where I'd been for my interviews. The hotel staff were very helpful in organising this for me - they arranged for me to drop my bags off at another hotel in their chain near the centre of Seattle, and even gave me some advice on where was good to visit. So I took a taxi from my hotel, via the other one of the same name, to the Space Needle. The taxi driver - an Indian guy named Kuljit (or was it Kurjit?) seemed to have a good knowledge of England, so we had a great chat on the way there about Indian food and how vital a part of British culture it had become. Superbly he even recommended a restaurant to me in Southall - the Rita Curry House. I made a mental note that I must go there one day - I absolutely love the idea that I'd had a recommendation for a restaurant, just down the road from where I used to live, given to me by a guy on the other side of the world! I was distinctly looking forward to having a chat with the owner, and saying hi from Kuljit.
Anyway, I digress. So I arrived at the Space Needle, and correspondingly took a few pictures of it. As always with these things it wasn't quite as big as I'd imagined - having only really seen it before in silhouette form in the opening titles to Frasier! Still, not to detract from it though - it was impressive nonetheless. From there, I picked up the monorail to head into the centre of Seattle, full of glee at the obvious Simpsons reference (assuming you've seen the episode with the monorail in). The monorail drops you off on the top floor of a shopping centre - called Westlake I think. From there I took a wander down towards the waterfront, and took a stroll around the famous Pike Place market, which was very good. I continued my general wander around, and ended up at a Post Office, where I spent rather longer than I had hoped, and almost witnessed a good old fashion American shooting (there was a guy losing his temper because they'd sent his "check" to the wrong address or something).
By this time it was gone midday, and being the cautious individual I am, I wanted to leave plenty of time to get to the airport. So I got back on the monorail, got off at the Space Needle again, and from there got another taxi to take me to the airport, by way of the hotel where I'd left my bags. Again, the taxi driver seemed to have some connection with England - his brother was teaching at a college in London apparently. I began to wonder if this might have just been a standard routine to curry favour with passengers. Perhaps next time I should say I come from somewhere obscure like Lichtenstein, to see what response that gets.
My return flight to the UK was not too bad really. I had a short connecting flight to Vancouver first, again on a tiny little plane with propellors and everything. From there it was another 9-and-a-bit hour flight to London, made much more bearable by having someone interesting to talk to. The woman sitting next to me was Canadian, and going to England to visit her daughter who was doing a PhD at Oxford, and she herself also had a PhD. So we had a wide ranging chat about academia, politics, Canada, the universe and everything. I am always extremely grateful to these poor souls who get lumbered with sitting next to me on planes, and are then subject to several hours of conversation from which they can't easily escape. I generally don't explain to them how much I hate flying, but perhaps I should, so they can appreciate what a tremendous benefit it is to have someone to talk to, to help take my mind off the whole thing, and help the time pass more quickly.
- [Monday 11th July]
So today was the day of my big interview - my reason for coming all the way to Seattle. It was an all day event, starting at 9 and finishing after 5. As always seems to be the case with these things it is hard to say exactly how it went - they weren't giving much away on the day. As usual, I can at least say it could have been much worse! I didn't think jetlag would affect me that much going this way round, but whether it was this or something else I didn't get a particularly great night's sleep. Breakfast was an early highlight to the day - the hotel had a Japanese breakfast on offer, so I enjoyed a bowl of rice, some miso soup, and a couple of umeboshi... oh, and a bagel - I was in the state after all! I got a taxi to the interview in the morning, but decided to walk back to my hotel in the evening as I wanted to clear my head etc.
Over the past few months I've developed a couple of rituals to do with exams and interviews. There is a CAKE song called Wheels from their most recent album which I have got into the habit of listening to immediately before the event in question. I then typically have it going round my head during the exam/interview, and I find this galvanises me somehow or other. So far it has helped me to pass one driving test, one PhD viva, and the first two interviews for this job I am applying for. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will continue to be a winning formula.
The other ritual I've developed is to have a few drinks after an interview (and definitely not before). After the first two interviews - in Japan - given that I was in Tokyo I was in a prime location to find some really good whisky bars (see here and here for details). This time round I didn't know of any whisky bars in the viccinity, and I was some distance from the centre of Seattle... So instead, I decided to go for a Mexican - this seemed somehow appropriate what with being in America and everything - I guess Mexican food to them fills a similar role to that which Indian food does in Britain. Conveniently there was a branch of Azteca just a short walk away from my hotel. In fact this was the only thing just a short walk away from my hotel. After consulting their website I was very pleased they had a decent looking vegetarian menu - America has proved surprisingly good for vegetarian food. The food was really good actually, the service was fantastic (they kept calling me "buddy" and "amigo" which I though was both hilarious and great in equal proportions)... and also, perhaps most importantly the beer was great too - I had a Corona first, which OK you can get in England, but it was somehow different... After that I had a Pacifico - one I hadn't seen in England, and was very nice.
After dinner I felt like going somewhere else to carry on my drinking spree, but there wasn't really anywhere that appealed - only the bar at the restaurant or back at the hotel. So instead I had a fairly early night, being somewhat knackered after a hard day of interviewing, and a long flight the day before, without having had much sleep inbetween.
- Flying to Seattle
- [Sunday 10th July]
Left Reading a bit before 11 to get the coach to Heathrow so I could fly to Seattle. As I was flying with Air Canada it meant changing at Vancouver, and from there taking a short connecting flight to Seattle. The flights wren't too bad I suppose - I was sat next to a guy working for the same company I was going for an interview with, so I had something to talk about for a while. I had also bought "Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure" which did a very good job of helping to pass the time. Finally got to Seattle about 8 in the evening west coast time. Got a slight frightening taxi ride to the hotel, which proved not too hard to find. Pleasingly the hotel has a free internet connection, which allowed me to occupy some of the rest of the evening, along with having an interesting veggie burger in the hotel restaurant.
- Names ending in K
- [Saturday 9th July]
Mark and Jim had very kindly let me stay the previous evening at their place, where I availed myself of their internet connection throughout a significant part of the day. Around 5ish I headed out, to go and meet Frank, Aisan and Shingosan, who I had bumped into at the station the previous day. I rather fancied being by the river, as it was a nice day. So we went to Ben's Thai Restaurant for dinner, and followed up afterwards with a few drinks at the Fisherman's Cottage - an old haunt of mine from a previous life. Had a very nice evening, particularly as I was safe in the knowledge I had a place to stay - Mark gave up his room for the second night in a row. What a star!
- [Friday 8th July]
My first full day of being a Dr - I don't think it has really sunk in yet! Went to see Barry in Newbury in the daytime, and had a very nice lunch at a pub out in the countryside - the Sun in the Wood I think it was called. In the evening I went over to Mark and Cristelle's place, where they made dinner - a very nice risotto.
- Dr John Hawkins
- [Thursday 7th July]
Today was my graduation ceremony - when I officially became Dr John Hawkins. It was a really great day, and I am so pleased I was able to qualify in time, and fit this in before going back to Japan. Lots of my family were there - Mum, Keith, Dad, Lucy, Vera and Robin all came along which was really great. It was also great to have a lot of friends there - more than I had expected. Mark and Hamdan were both graduating at the same time, which was fanastic, and Rob and Brynie were also there to cheer us on. The ceremony itself was at midday. We hung around for a while afterwards, but by just after 2 everyone was getting really hungry, so we headed off to Pangbourne for a bite to eat. We just missed the food shift at the Cross Keys, so instead went to The Swan, which actually turned out to be very nice. This seemed sort of fitting - my first ever visit to Pangbourne started at The Swan (we arrived by boat!). I doubt this will be the last time I go to Pangbourne, but my graduation does sort of mark the end of my formal association with the area... Anyway, around 5 or 6 my family started to head off home, and I got a lift back into Reading. Spent the evening with Rob, Byrnie and Mark again, having a few quiet drinks as all the celebrations gradually wound down.... A really great day!
- Day before Graduation
- [Wednesday 6th July]
I had a day to wile away by myself, as everyone I knew in or around Reading was at work! Took a walk from David's house in Tilehurst over to the Gorge Cafe for a very nice cooked breakfast. From there I ambled over to the station in a round about way, and got a train into London. I spent most of the time in London in "my club" (the SWMS member's rooms), enjoyed a selection of whiskies from the summer bottlings list, and also had lunch there. I was there about four hours in all - from midday until about 4 in the afternoon. Headed back towards Reading after leaving there. Spent the evening in the Back of Beyond with Rob, Kate, Byrnie and Mark as a sort of pre-graduation celebration or something.
- Back to Reading
- [Tuesday 5th July]
Left Derby in the morning, and travelled back down to Reading. Arrived around lunchtime and headed straight to university, picked up the bound copies of my thesis, handed them in, then went for lunch in the union with Mark et al. Sadly as it was now out of term-time there was no cheese and chips or beer to be had. Ho, hum. After lunch I did one or two other errands on campus, and then headed back into the centre of Reading for a couple more odd things I needed to sort out there. Got the train over to Pangbourne towards the end of the afternoon, popped into my old office, and even got roped into doing a bit of consultancy! Went out in the evening with David, Simon and Kev in Reading, including a trip to Nando's for old time's sake, followed by a few beers.
- [Monday 4th July]
Spent the morning feeling inexplicably quite irritable, but the situation improved after lunch, which was largely down to getting out of the house I think. Went for a really nice walk with Mum down in the meadows at the edge of the village, where apparently linen used to be grown and worked with. Despite being beside a big industrial estate, with the powerlines overhead, and the constant din of the A50 in the background, it was really great to be out in the fresh air. Keith and I went for an early drink a little later on, which was also very nice, in a pub in the village I had never actually been in before. Dinner was a broadly oriental affair - Mum and Keith had something Chinese-ish, and I made a Thai green curry which, although I say so myself, came out rather well. Mum tried a tiny little bit, and yelped "BLOODY HELL THAT'S HOT!!!!", which led me to believe I had got it just about right.
- [Sunday 3rd July]
Didn't do a great deal in the daytime - had our sunday roast at lunchtime as we were going to be out around dinnertime. For the first time in years I had a nut roast - and actually despite all the stigma it was actually quite nice.
We headed out around 5ish to go and visit my uncle Michael, who is currently in hospital in Sheffield, although hopefully he will be out any day now. Stayed for about an hour with Michael. It was really good to see him, albeit for a somewhat brief period. This visit meant I had now seen pretty much every conceivable relative on my grand tour of Britain!
I picked up a Chinese takeaway on the way back to Mum's house, and was pleased to see that vegetarian food was available even in small towns in the Midlands! I had "vegetarian sweet and sour pork" - the "pork" being a fake version of course, I think made from gluten. It was ok, but the sauce made it go a bit soft - the few bits that were sticking out of the sauce were the tastiest.
- Mrs Beddoe and Old Photos
- [Saturday 2nd July]
In the morning me and Mum went to see Mrs Bedoe - my first (and favourite!) teacher from primary school. Mum said she was often asking after me, and so we thought it would be nice to go and let her know how I'm getting on - especially as I'd just got my PhD. It seemed somehow appropriate, now I am finally at the end of my formal education, that I should go and see the person who was there right at the start of it. She was absolutely lovely as ever, and miraculously doesn't seem to have aged at all!
I spent most of the rest of the day sorting through and scanning old family photographs. What with the Radstock Photo Archive detailing my undergraduate years, and my pictures page detailing everything since then, I have a fairly good photographic record of my life from wehn I was 18 years old up to the present day. So now I am beginning to wonder if I can put together an (albeit more patchy) account of my life up to 18 in photographs. It's great looking through some of these old pictures as a kid - they are so rich in information. I keep finding toys, clothes, birthday cakes, houses, cars - all of which I surprisingly can remember quite well once my memory has been jogged by the image.
- Friday in the Midlands
- [Friday 1st July]
Dropped my suit off at the dry cleaning place in the morning, and then spent the afternoon scanning in pictures from Mum's family photo album. After dinner, went out for a few drinks with Keith and Tony.