Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Regent's Canal
Jazz and Olivocarne
Chinese Food Again
Lunch at Oliveto and Chilli Bean Paste
Portuguese Custard Tarts
Turnbull and Asser and Watermelon
Home Made Gnocchi
Ful Medames and a Stroll Along the South Bank
Burrito and Cocktails
Fakhreldine and Freud
Truefit and Hill, Intern Pub Crawl and GBBF
Sunday on the Isle of Wight
Saturday on the Isle of Wight
Irish Olympic House
Fried Courgette Flowers
- Regent's Canal
- [Sunday 26th August 2012]
I had a craving to go somewhere glamorous / exotic this weekend - perhaps a return visit to Venice or Monaco - but that would obviously be a bit irresponsible with the baby due quite imminently. So instead we had to make do with some sort of substitute that wouldn't involve leaving London - and we decided to go and visit Little Venice instead.
It isn't really a lot like Venice proper - there's no Venetian Gothic or Byzantine architecture to be seen - but I suppose it was sort of pleasant in its own way. We took a boat trip from there along the Regent's Canal to Camden Lock. Much of the route was not particularly scenic - St. John's Wood Substation sticks particularly in my mind - but there were occasional glimpses of some grand houses with large gardens sweeping down to the canal. In particular one house just before we arrived in Camden with a mature and leafy garden backing on to the canal, with children playing, and a jetty on the water to moor a boat, looked rather idyllic.
On arrival in Camden we were greeted by the familiar smells of joss sticks and the mildew of "vintage" clothes. I was reminded why we haven't been here for a long time - it just doesn't interest me. All of this "alternative" culture seems to have become just as much a stereotype as anything traditional or mainstream. I felt ironically quite rebellious in my brogues, cufflinks, herringbone jacket and pocket square. We had a quick look round but soon found ourselves wanting to get away from the crowds and instead head in the direction of Primrose Hill.
We sat there for a while, before starting to head in the direction of dinner. We stopped off en route at a pub for a drink, but even with that diversion ended up at the restaurant about half an hour before our booking.
I thought it would be fitting with our canal themed day out to have dinner at the Feng Shang Princess - the floating Chinese restaurant on the Regent's Canal. We'd spotted it before - probably over a decade ago when I was living in Hampstead - and so it was nice to actually finally go in. The food was actually of a decent standard, and they had a reasonable selection of vegetarian dishes on the menu. The highlight was probably rhe mock "chicken" with sugar snap peas, which had a tasty black pepper sauce.
After dinner we walked to Camden, along a street called Parkways, which was surprisingly lively and full of shops and restaurants, and I wonder how it was we'd never walked down here before.
Quite enoyed lolling about the flat for the remainder of the evening. Watched some of Brideshead Revisited on the telly - particularly the bit in Venice, and whilst we'd had quite a pleasant day out was left with the definite sense that Little Venice hadn't really satisfied that craving!
- [Saturday 25th August 2012]
Chie went to lunch with some friends today, leaving me to my own devices. I'd stumbled upon a site called Classic Cafes in the morning, which listed a lot of cafes in London with interesting vintage interiors (plus rather mournfully a lot which have now closed), and so I decided to give one of these a go. So I had a rather lovely lunch in a place called Chalet, which I'd likely walked past before and dismissed as some sort of tourist trap. It actually had a rather lovely 1950s (?) wood panelled interior, and apparently a very loyal customer base - the staff new all the customer's names, and vice verse. The food wasn't exactly pushing the boundaries of Italian cuisine but it was of a decent standard, and I found the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable.
After lunch I met up with Chie on Bond Street - fortunately as it was just starting to rain and she didn't have an umbrella - and we did a bit of shopping together. We bought some tea and other bits and pieces in Fortnum and Mason, and then headed back home together.
In the evening I made a mushroom risotto, using some dried porcini we'd bought in Venice, along with a generous sprinkling of the red and green peppercorns we'd also picked up there.
- [Friday 24th August]
- Jazz and Olivocarne
- [Thursday 23rd August 2012]
Met up with Chie at lunchtime and attended the first half of a free jazz concert at Cadogan Hall, near Sloane Square. Most of it was a bit modern and not exactly my cup of tea, but, as I seem to be saying of many things of late, at least it was a break from the norm.
After that we went for lunch at the new Mauro Sanna restaurant in Belgravia - Olivocarne. Of course there wasn't really a whole lot for me on the menu, but I mainly wanted to see what the decor was like, and they did actually have a couple of non-meaty pasta dishes on offer. So all in all a very pleasant lunchbreak.
In the evening I fancied something Mexican, so Chie and I collaborated on making a Chilli con Quorn. I also made a pleasing firey salsa with fresh chilli, fresh tomatoes, lime juice and coriander. It all came out rather well.
- [Wednesday 22nd August 2012]
Went for a drink with Kyle a the Cask and Glass after work, but didn't stay very long.
I took a detour on the way home to pop into the Middle Eastern shop nearby, as I had a craving for falafel. Also couldn't resist getting a tin of ful medames while I was there - they have a whole aisle of the stuff. This time I tried the Syrian variety, which has the addition of cumin and chilli.
- Chinese Food Again
- [Tuesday 21st August 2012]
Chinese food for dinner again - very unusual for us to eat the same cuisine two nights in a row! ...but I'd bought quite a lot of choi sum in Chinatown yesterday and was determined not to let it go to waste. So I made a rather ad hoc sort of a stir fry with choi sum, mock duck, and lots of garlic, which we ate with pancakes. It was rather good again. I also made an extremely simple soup, just some seaweed stock with a spoonful of chilli bean paste, which was surprisingly tasty.
- Lunch at Oliveto and Chilli Bean Paste
- [Monday 20th August 2012]
Had pizza for lunch at Oliveto, with Kyle.
In the evening Chie and I met up to go and do some Chinese food shopping in Chinatown, and managed to successfully resist the temptation to just eat out instead. I'd been keen to get hold of a jar of chilli bean paste, having seen it mentioned on the telly recently. Back at home I made two dishes: one was vegetarian mock prawns with broccoli in chilli bean sauce, and the other was choi sum and five spiced tofu in the standard garlic, ginger and sake sauce I often make. It all turned out rather well.
- Portuguese Custard Tarts
- [Sunday 19th August 2012]
Not much to report really - went out for breakfast, and ended up having a rather unusual breakfast at the little Portuguese deli in Pimlico - coffee and custards tarts.
Spent most of the rest of the day lounging around either in the flat or out in the gardens.
- Turnbull and Asser and Watermelon
- [Saturday 18th August 2012]
Very summery today - quite hot in fact. I put on suncream to go out to the shops.
We had a very pleasant stroll from the flat, through St. James's Park and on to Jermyn Street. I wanted to buy a new shirt, and decided to try out Turnbull and Asser, which turned to be significantly posher than any of the other shirt shops on Jermyn Street I had been in to date. The staff were incredibly well spoken. The chap I spoke to also had what I assumed to be a very dry sense of humour - when I mentioned at one point that I'd managed to lose my wife he replied in unwavering deadpan RP "how very careless of you sir". I also showed my ignorance by asking if a shirt made with a twill weave was some kind of easy iron shirt, to which he replied "Absolutely not - all of our shirts are very difficult iron". You have to admire that level of commitment to doing things properly. The cotton of their shits did have a very luxurious feel to them. I bought a rather bold striped shirt, which, a few days later I discovered was indeed very difficult to iron.
We popped into the Japan Centre whilst in town for a quick spot of lunch. Chie was rather pleased to discover they had cold noodles on the menu - particularly called for on a day like today given that their air conditioning appeared to have broken, and the whole shop was like an oven. We also made a visit to the National Gallery to see the other Titian exhibition, although it was a bit too interpretative and not really my cup of tea.
On the way back home we stopped off at the street market in Pimlico, and bought a watermelon. You know, I don't think I've ever actually bought a watermelon before. I carried this home and it was surprisingly heavy - suddenly I have a lot more sympathy for Chie and the extra weight she's having to carry around at the moment. The watermelon weighed about the same I think.
We ate the watermelon out in the gardens - it was still hot outside - and this was rather lovely.
- [Friday 17th August 2012]
Went with Chie and a couple of people from work for South Indian food at Sagar this evening. It was fairly good, but I think I prefer Woodlands still.
- [Thursday 16th August 2012]
I hadn't slept very well the night before, and had been kept awake thinking about work. Although we'd had the big launch back in May, it hadn't (yet!) set the world on fire, and I had started to be filled with self doubt. This had been made worse this week by one particularly negative person in the New York office (whenever I get annoyed at work, it almost always originates in New York) who had made some probably throw away comments recently, but which had really played on my sense of impostor syndrome. Everyone has this to some degree in tech companies, apparently.
I think this was also compounded by the thought of the impending arrival of the baby, which somehow strengthened the pressure I felt to have at least one really big runaway success during my career. I'm not really sure I fully understand the logic of that - whether it's because I want the baby to be proud of me (in which case I probably have a few more years before I really need to worry about that - I don't think newborn babies are particularly discerning about online services), or whether it's more the concern over having a new and very big focus in my life before I feel like I've got where I want to be with the existing one (work). Or maybe it's just a pressure to suddenly make a vast sum of money so we can buy that big family home with a garden. In Belgravia.
I've definitely experienced this sense before, following a project launch, and the few months afterwards can be a frustrating time, where you start to doubt whether what you did was really good enough, and wonder if you shouldn't have gone in a completely different direction altogether. Sometimes there's then a kind of sense of paralysis where you can't come to a consensus on which direction to head in next, and end up floundering and getting very little done.
I think the key thing I've learnt from the past is not to be too hasty to throw it all away and go in some completely different direction, or to make very grand plans for a next big thing which will take months. Often it's worth looking at what you've got and seeing where a bunch of small incremental changes could potentially make a big difference.
So that's what I lay awake thinking about last night, and I came up with a neat little idea which I then hurried enthusiastically into the office to start working on this morning.
It's only going to be a small feature, but it is something none of our competitors are doing, and I was very pleased with the way I could bash out a working prototype within a single day. Moreover, I was pleased with the way I'd been able to turn that self doubt (and irksome negativity from New York) into something positive and constructive.
- Portuguese Lunch
- [Wednesday 15th August 2012]
A Portuguese colleague was leaving our team at work, and so I'd proposed going for a Portuguese lunch to mark the occasion. I discovered Portuguese food has pretty much nothing to offer vegetarians.
- Home Made Gnocchi
- [Tuesday 14th August 2012]
Having been inspired by a programme I'd seen on the telly the other day, I decided to try my hand at making gnocchi from scratch. Despite some initial doubts, and having been rather cavalier in not actually following any recipe, the end result was actually rather pleasing, and served with a cheese and spinach sauce.
- [Monday 13th August 2012]
I think Chie made Chinese food for dinner today.
I spent some of the evening doing yet more fruitless browsing of property websites. In particular I've started to cultivate an unrealistic daydream about having a house with a little orchard attached - a few apple trees and perhaps a few perry pear trees. Herefordshire has lots of places fitting this description - plenty of houses which are also very attractive, set in lovely countryside, and also very reasonably priced. There's of course a reason for that - the entire county of Hereforshire has only three train stations, and even if you're right in the centre of Hereford trains to London take around three hours. Not very practical.
- Ful Medames and a Stroll Along the South Bank
- [Sunday 12th August 2012]
I'd bought some dried fava beans yesterday, had soaked them overnight, and spent this morning relentlessly boiling them to make ful medames. I'd particularly wanted to make my own because the tinned version - whilst delicious - were really high in salt. However when I tried to make my own, despite it being an extremely simple recipe, I found it was lacking something. Salt, I imagine.
Later on in the afternoon we went out for a stroll along the South bank of the Thames, ostensibly to go and visit the Japanese Olympic house, but when we got there we found it had already closed. So I guess the Olympics is over then.
In the evening we watched the closing ceremony. Having dreaded the Olympics coming to London it hadn't really been so bad in the end.
- Disappointing Ramen
- [Saturday 11th August 2012]
I'd had a bit of a craving for ramen most of this week, and was keen to try out Tonkotsu, the new ramen place in Soho - particularly having seen that they have a vegetarian ramen dish on the menu. This represented only the third place I'd ever had ramen other than at home - it's almost always made with some kind of pork stock, and vegetarian versions in Japan are close to non-existent. It was a tad disappointing though, if I'm honest, there just didn't seem to be much substance to the dish, and the soup was a bit non-descript. I guess vegetarian ramen just isn't really an established thing, and it's really hard to get the flavour right. There also didn't seem to be any Japanese staff in the place, which is usually a bad sign, and the staff they did have didn't really seem to know what they were doing - they couldn't even read the menu, in fact. Oh well.
We fared better culinarily a little later on in the afternoon, when we popped into Foxcroft and Ginger for a coffee and a piece of their very good chocolate and orange flower cake.
- Burrito and Cocktails
- [Friday 10th August 2012]
Met up with Chie for lunch, got a burrito from my favourite place (Picante Mexican Grill) and went to eat it in St. James's Park. It's really been very nice so far that Chie's been off work, I have been really enjoying being able to meet up in the daytime like this.
In the evening Al had invited me over to his house near Clapham Junction for dinner and cocktails. There were eight of us in total, and it was a very civilised affair, sitting around the large table out in his back garden. I helped out a little bit with the cocktail making - at the start at least - and introduced a couple of new people to the Aviation. They seemed to go down rather well.
- Fakhreldine and Freud
- [Thursday 9th August 2012]
Chie was out with friends for the evening, so I managed to persuade a couple of the chaps from the office to go out for dinner - and decided to try a Lebanese restaurant called Fakhreldine on Piccadilly. As I feel like I end up saying about every other Lebanese restaurant I go to I didn't like it as much as Noura, but it is always interesting to see the slight variation that different restaurants have on the set of standard mezze dishes I always seem to end up ordering.
After dinner I was in the mood for a cocktail, so we headed to a bar called Freud, which seemed like a bit of a hipster joint, and was way too loud for me, but nonetheless made for a pleasant break from the norm.
- Truefit and Hill, Intern Pub Crawl and GBBF
- [Wednesday 8th August 2012]
Went to get my hair cut this morning, and decided to try out another of the traditional barbers in St. James's - this time Truefitt and Hill. I'm not entirely convinced I actually like the hair cuts I get from these places, but I really like the atmosphere of them, and it's interesting to think of all the aristocrats and luminaries who've had their locks trimmed by the same barbers over the years.
In the evening I was commissioned by a bunch of interns at the office to show them a couple of pubs near the office. Naturally I was happy to oblige, and introduced them to two of Belgravia's finest - the Horse and Groom and the Nag's Head. It was a good opportunity to rattle out the now extensively rehearsed spiel about the history of the area and the pubs in it to a new and receptive audience. Or at least, they were polite enough to give the appearance of being receptive.
Being impoverished intern types, they were all keen to get back to the office before 8pm (when the cafe in the office stops serving dinner), and so it was rather a short outing. I wasn't quite ready to go home, and Chie was otherwise engaged for the evening, so decided to go and join Al at the Great British Beer Festival at Kensington Olympia. I drank exclusively cider and perry there, and was rather pleased that after my arrival both Al and his colleagues all followed suit.
Still not sure I really like the Great British Beer Festival compared to, say, Reading Beer Festival - although the Olympia is a big improvement on Earl's Court, it's still just a bit too big and impersonal.
- Hospital Tour
- [Tuesday 7th August 2012]
Went for a tour of the maternity unit at Chelsea and Westminster hospital at 5 today. Found this a tad intimidating, if I'm honest, but it was probably worth getting familiar with it now rather than on the big day.
On the way back we went for dinner at Oliveto, and spotted that owner Mauro Sanna had opened up a new restaurant a few doors down. Alas this one was called Olivocarne, and as the name suggests focused on meat. So not much use to me! I hope he might consider opening Olivoverdure next!
- [Monday 6th August 2012]
- Sunday on the Isle of Wight
- [Sunday 5th August 2012]
We woke fairly early in our hotel in Ventnor, and it is always nice when staying by the sea to open up the window and start the day with a few deep breaths of sea air. We were down for breakfast before 9, and has checked out before 10.
I decided we should visit Osborne House this morning, which meant another bus from Ventnor, changing at Newport (the "capital"), back up to the North side of the island. I was surprised by how hilly the middle bit of the Isle of Wight is.
We arrived at Osborne House just after 11, and spent an hour or so touring the inside of the house (where unfortunately photography wasn't allowed). It was interesting to learn about of Victoria and Albert's time there - it really felt like a family home rather than a formal residence (the dining room was surprisingly small for example) and it gives the impression that no-one else has lived in it sense. Which I think is more or less the case. I was also pleased to discover Thomas Cubitt had been involved in building the place - a builder I've become a bit of a fan of hving been surrounded by his handiwork in Belgravia and Pimlico the past few years.
The grounds are rather large and sweeping, and they've just recently opened up Victoria's private beach, which we wandered down to. Ventnor had felt quite remote, but here it's just a short hop across the water to the mainland, and there's a good view to be had of Portsmouth.
For the next item on our itinerary I was very keen to go for a ride on the Isle of Wight steam railway, which, in a somewhat tenuous way, would form part of our return journey to Ryde to get the ferry back to the mainland. Chie didn't seem quite as keen - she seems to only like steam trains in Japan.
We took a bus to Wooton, and had a bit of a wait at the tiny little station there for the next steam train. I initially just bought a standard (3rd class) ticket - the chap in the ticket office didn't offer anything else. However, on seeing on a poster that first class tickets were also available I naturally upgraded us - as we were only likely to be on this train once, we might as will do it in style.
So when the train eventually arrived we had our own little first class compartment, which was very nice - lovely dark wood panelled interior, very pleasant interior, and lots of fascinating little details. Although it was all in mininature - both the size of the train and the length of the run - it definitely evoked a rather wonderful atmosphere of the golden age of travel, and I couldn't help but wonder why we have to put up with such drably designed train interiors today.
We broke our journey at Haven Street, the main station of the line, where there's a little museum, shop, cafe, and there was also a Victorian fair going on. Appropriately enough, having been at Osborne House earlier, we spotted Queen Victoria with her entourage.
Another short leg on a slightly different steam train then carried us the rest of the way to Smallbrook Junction, the end of the steam railway, and where we could connect onto the little "normal' train that took us back to Ryde pier head. From there we got the ferry back to the mainland.
Return journeys are never quite as fun as outbound journeys, and it seemed to rather drag on (especially because we just missed a faster train by about 30 seconds on arrival at Portsmouth Harbour). We ended up on a slower train which surprisingly went by way of Hove, but on the plus side got us back into Victoria.
- Saturday on the Isle of Wight
- [Saturday 4th August 2012]
We were now down to a month away from the due date for the baby, and thought this might be our last opportunity to do something spontaneous at the weekend, before we really ought to start staying a bit closer to home. Somehow or other we came up with the idea of going to the Isle of Wight - not exactly wildly spontaneous or reckless, but at least a bit of a break from the norm.
I was impressed with the way we could buy a single train ticket all the way through from Waterloo to Shanklin on the island - the ferry and the little train in the island all included. It was also rather lovely that on arrival in Waterloo the train company were giving out free ice lollies - for no apparent reason - a little thing but it made for a lovely, and ever so slightly surreal atmosphere in the station - everyone seemed delighted with their strawberry splits.
The ferry over to the island is short - about 20 minutes - but still somehow getting on a boat, even to a destination as tame as the Isle of Wight, adds a bit of a sense of adventure to a trip. At the other end we got on the cute little old tube train they use on the island, for the service from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin.
Once in Shanklin we headed from the station to the sea, for a stroll along the seafront. Frankly it's a bit on the tacky side, but at the end of the seafront we found the entrance to Shanklin Chine, which by contrast was very pleasant. We stopped at the bottom of the chine for afternoon tea, having mostly missed lunch, and had a very good scone and a piece of carrot cake. Suddenly it felt like we were on holiday.
From there we walked up the chine, which is short but quite pretty, which at the top opened out into Shanklin Old Village, which is much nicer looking than the seafront.
The train line on the island used to go all the way to Ventnor on the South coast, but nowadays the remainder of the journey from Shanklin to Ventnor has to be made by bus. As always I'm surprised by how expensive buses are in rural areas - I guess we're just spoiled with low flat fares in London.
On arrival in Ventnor we headed to the Royal Hotel, which after a bit of research I'd established was one of the two or three most upmarket hotels on the island. We checked in here and were given a small but pleasant enough room, with a nice view over the gardens and out to sea. We then headed out to explore Ventnor a bit.
There actually isn't a whole lot to the town itself, but I rather liked the way at the Western edge the town just abruptly stops, and gives way to clifftop meadows, which made for a lovely late afternoon stroll. The earlier clouds had disappeared (maybe just because we were further South), and so we had a rather idyllic walk up along the cliffs amidst vivid greens and blues.
By the time we returned to the town it was just passing six o' clock - perfect time to start turning our thoughts to food and drink! I had already researched this part somewhat, and was keen to try the Spyglass Inn, which seemed very much to be "the" pub in Ventnor. Some initial trepidation about a not-particularly attractive exterior (when approached from behind) were dispelled by a jaunty pirate theme, and an interior which was delightfully cluttered with nautical paraphernalia. Moreover it's looking out to sea, and so again I really felt like we were on holiday.
We ate here too, and the food was surprisingly good - they did a thoroughly decent mushroom lasagne, and Chie really enjoyed some fresh seafood. A definite hit.
We wandered around the town a bit after dinner, including a brief visit to an amusement arcade, although as previously noted there isn't really a whole lot to Ventnor so we fairly soon decided to just retire to the hotel. We had another drink - and dessert (!) in the bar there which was a pleasant way to round off the day.
- Irish Olympic House
- [Friday 3rd August 2012]
Having stumbled upon "Africa Village" last Sunday I'd been made aware of this concept of Olympic hospitality houses - lots of countries had them in London for the duration of the games. I found a list of them somewhere, and thought it might be interesting to try some more, so this evening persuaded a few colleagues to go along to the Irish Olympic House near King's Cross.
It was basically just a big pub they'd hired out for the duration, and not really the sort of pub I'd go to usually either. Still, I suppose it made for a bit of a break for the norm. On the plus side they had a basement bar which was decorated in the style of Father Ted's house, which was briefly quite fun.
Afterwards we were peckish so somehow decided we should go and eat Ethiopian food (somewhat of an odd follow on from an evening of Irishness) at a nearby place called Addis. It was my first time to try Ethopian food, and to be honest I wasn't all that impressed.
- Beach Volleyball
- [Thursday 2nd August 2012]
I have to admit to having been a bit grumpy about the Olympics - all the dire warnings about how the public transport would be completely overwhelmed and so on had made me think it was going to be nothing but an inconvenience, particularly as I'm not really much into sport in the first place.
Chie however had been keen that we go along to at least something, seeing as it was sort of a once in a lifetime event, and the only tickets she'd been able to get was for beach volleyball. On the plus side this was being held at Horseguards parade, so would feel a lot more "Londony" than the Olympic stadium proper.
This is pretty much the first time I've ever actually been a live spectator of any kind of sport, and I have to admit I pretty quickly started to find it somewhat boring and repetitive. In particular beach volleyball seems to be a sport for people with attention deficit disorder - there are very short bursts of actual sport, constantly interspersed with loud music, and commentators attempting to make jokes, as well as occasional appearances from dancers and people with rakes. Still, I guess I sort of liked the festival like atmosphere on the way into the stadium, and I suppose had I not attended anything at all during London 2012 I probably would have thought I'd missed out somehow.
- Afternoon Off
- [Wednesday 1st August 2012]
Took the afternoon off work today so I could join Chie at another antenatal class. We'd already done the NCT antenatal course, but thought we should also go to the NHS one for comparison, thinking that they might have a bit more specific information about the actual hospital we'd be going to.
Although the course itself was a bit cramped, and pretty much just told us things we already knew (and in a somewhat more haphazard way than it had been delivered to us by the NCT), it was rather pleasant to have the afternoon off. Chie was on maternity leave as of the start of this week, which tied nicely in with the start of the Olympics (so she wouldn't have to commute during it) and it was very pleasant to be able to spend time together on a weekday.
The class started from 2, giving us time for a quick lunch at the Regency Cafe beforehand, which was great as it always is. After the class finished, around 4, we decided to head off in the direction of Hyde Park for a stroll. We stopped off at Oddono's in South Kensington as Chie fancied some ice cream.
There were a couple of Olympics related things going on in Hyde Park - a sort of expo for Africa, and for the next winter Olympics in Russia. The African expo thing - Africa village - was a bit weird, and I couldn't really fathom what the point of it was. I felt particularly sorry for the people manning the Libya stall, who looked incredibly bored. There was also a vast pop up shop selling Olympic merchandise, which left me wondering what they're going to to with all that stuff after the Olympics when they inevitably can't sell it. We were a bit tempted by some baby sized trainers, but managed to resist.
- [Tuesday 31st July 2012]
Trying to write something about today almost a month after that fact - absolutely no idea! Didn't take any pictures and Latitude history tells me I just went to work and came back again.
- [Monday 30th July 2012]
Went to see Laura Wade's Posh at the Duke of York's Theatre. Here's my review:
Overall I enjoyed it, although I think probably more the first act than the second. In the first act, Posh has fun with the upper class stereotypes who form the bulk of its cast, and it's pretty much all comedy. In a lot of the reviews I've read the reviewer seems to feel it important to point out how they see it as an entirely unsympathetic portrayal of the upper classes. Looking at the first act in isolation, I'm not really sure that's true - I'm fairly sure the audience were laughing along with them, and the occasional "oooooh" noises which presumably were trying to convey a collective "did they really just say that?" seemed a little forced and artificial. I imagined Vic and Bob raising their handbags. Some parts of the dialogue are clearly a very deliberate attempt to make their complaints about the upper class first world problems they face stand out as untenable - the National Trust having taken over control of their country estates, for example. At other times their ranting about the banal, small minded jobsworth attitudes of the modern day middle classes did seem to contain some credible substance, along with the contradiction that the upper classes were simultaneously loathed by the rest of the population, and yet something they all seemed to try to aspire to. Asparagus being a particular bone of contention.
In the second act it darkens somewhat, and there's not really a lot of humour. I found the change of atmosphere kind of jarring actually, and it was almost as if we, the audience, were being remonstrated for having found the snobbery in the first act amusing. The violent outburst just didn't really fit the rest of the play, in my opinion, and the aftermath seemed a slightly clumsy attempt to underline the characters as flawed individuals - the hubris of act one replaced by cowardice in act two.
The epilogue seems to have caused consternation in other reviews - and there I agree with them. It appears to suggest the main perpetrator is going to be helped by the establishment, will likely get away with it, and moreover the incident seems to further his career. So I'm a bit confused about what the moral of the story is supposed to be.
I am left with the opinion that actually the main entertainment value in this play is in the humour that derives from the unfettered snobbery of act one, spliced as it is with the a capella songs, which similarly draw their humour from our image of a self confident but eccentric and out of touch upper class. Despite what other reviewers say, there is something clearly likeable about these characters (perhaps in a Blackadder sense of "likeable"), at least during the first act, but it is as if the playwright panicked about being on the wrong side of common public opinion, and felt compelled to paint them in a purely negative light in act two.
- Fried Courgette Flowers
- [Sunday 29th July 2012]
Made dinner with some of the things we'd bought at the Pimlico Road market yesterday morning - we fried the courgette flowers in a light batter, and then did something or other with the samphire, although I forget exactly what now.