Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
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- Recent Entries:
- Killing Time in Reading
Heathrow, London and Reading
Abergavenny, Reading, Guildford and Maidenhead
North and South
Blackberries and Bardsey
A Mountain and a Roast Meal
Thursday in North Wales
Apple Tree and Walk
Back in England
Yee and Hauke's Wedding
Sightseeing in Hamburg
Travelling to Hamburg
Osaka to Amsterdam
Off to Osaka
Last Night in Hiroshima
Shopping, Hair Cut and Fake Meat
Out with Kumada-san
Day Out in Hiroshima
Another Day Indoors
A Bit of an Overhaul
Eating too Much
A Walk by the Sea
All by Myself...
Out for a Walk
Champagne and Sushi
- Killing Time in Reading
- [Wednesday 28th September]
Stayed at Simon's place the previous evening, and when Simon left for work (in his lovely new car) I got a lift as far as Reading University. Had breakfast there, and availed myself of the internet connection on campus for a while. Rob called just before lunch, and suggested that as Kate was also at a loose end we could kill time together. So I wandered into town, we had lunch at Pizza Express, and then went to the cinema to watch Revolver. I found the film quite confusing in places - although it was still a broadly gangster film it was quite different to Ritch'es previous offerings, a lot more cerebral. I'm not entirely sure I liked it, but it certainly did help to pass the time.
Met up with Rob and Byrnie a little later on. Started off with a couple of drinks and some rather crap food in the Back of Beyond, and then went on from there to the Hobgoblin, wherein I enjoyed a couple of very good pints of mild and some very good conversation.
- Heathrow, London and Reading
- [Tuesday 27th September]
Went to Heathrow first thing in the morning, to see Chie off, who was going to be returning to Japan ahead of me. From there I headed into London to go and see my PhD supervisor, and finally gave him his copy of the finished thesis. This was the last little detail to tie up, and it felt really good to be reminded again that the PhD really is over and done with! We had a long chat about my future career and everything, had lunch together, and then after lunch I headed off.
Being in London with some time to kill, I couldn't resist the temptation to pop into the whisky society. I was there for a large part of the afternoon, and was pretty much the only customer in there. Had a nice chat with the barman, who had only recently started apparently, and enjoyed some very fine whiskies. These included a Miyagikyo (from Sendai in Japan), a Clynelish and, for a bit of a break from the norm, I ventured into Speyside on the barman's recommendation and had a very good Glen Rothes.
I got a train out of London around 5:30, and was picked up at Reading station by David and Simon. Went for some food and a few beers with them in Reading, just like old times. Having spent the afternoon sampling whiskies and the evening sampling beer (!), I was probably very drunk by the end of the day!
- Abergavenny, Reading, Guildford and Maidenhead
- [Monday 26th September]
Complicated travel arrangements seem to be somewhat de rigeur for me and Chie in recent months. We had stayed the previous night with Vera and Robin in Abergavenny. After a spot of breakfast Robin gave us a lift into Newport so we could get on a train towards the South East. Our first stop, albeit a very brief one, was in Reading, were I dashed up to the university to pick up the hard bound copy of my thesis which I'd been wanting to give to my supervisor since July, but hadn't yet managed.
From Reading we then went on to Guildford, as Chie wanted to see my nephew and niece before she went back to Japan. It was also a good opportunity to hand over some souvenirs from Japan - we'd bought my nephew William a pair of Hawkins shoes - no need to sew a label into them, they've conveniently already got his surname written all over! I think Hawkins may actually an Italian brand, strangely enough, although I have never seen them in shops anywhere but Japan.
We left Guildford around 5 or 6, and rather superbly managed to get on the same train back to Reading that Rob was on, on his way home from his job. This gave us the opportunity to have a jolly nice chat, make plans for a night out, and also have a Chupa Chup each, that Chie had bought in Hamburg. This registered as another one of those bizarre moments that my life has been filled with as late.
Our last port of call for the day was Maidenhead, where we were going to stay the night, so that Chie could meet up with some of her friends from where she used to work. It was a little disorientating at first to suddenly be emmersed in Japanese culture again - I think some of Chie's friends assumed I could speak a little more Japanese than I actually can, given that I'd spent the summer there and everything. Well, I tried my best!
- North and South
- [Sunday 25th September]
Went out for a last walk by the sea in the morning. Dad lives in a fantastic spot - he has a beach within walking distance which is quite possibly one of the nicest I have ever seen, and there are never more than a few other people around to share it with! Vera has this little ritual that we always used to go through as kids - at the end of a holiday we would always go to the beach one last time to breathe in "huge lungfulls of sea air", presumably based on the assumption we could store it up somehow, and continue to benefit from it after we had left.
After lunch we headed off - Vera and Robin were going back down to South Wales, and me and Chie had decided to go with them. It was a four hour journey, but my perception of time has changed somewhat given all the travelling I have done this year, so it seemed to be over in a flash. We arrived in Abergavenny just before 7, and Robin knocked us up a very nice dinner.
- Blackberries and Bardsey
- [Saturday 24th September]
Went out for a short walk first thing in the morning, with the primary objective of picking blackberries. The country lanes near Dad's house were full of them, so it wasn't particularly hard work! A little later on we went over to the coast near Aberdaron - there's a sort of observation point up above the village from where you can get a good view of Bardsey. As always it was nigh on impossible to resist taking a few photos here!
Didn't really do a great deal the rest of the day - I made a vaguely mediteranean soup for lunch, and in the afternoon Robin, Vera et al went out again, but Chie and I were feeling a bit tired so decided to just be lazy around the house instead.
- A Mountain and a Roast Meal
- [Friday 23rd September]
Another lovely day in North Wales! In the daytime we went for a walk up a mountain (although Chie no doubt wanted to contest the use of this term) with fantastic views of the LLyn peninsula and beyond.
Vera and Robin were coming up from South Wales to stay for the weekend, and they arrived early evening around 7ish. Dad made a great big slap up roast meal, to which I contributed a vaguely Welsh dish (involving leeks, welsh cheddar and mustard). It was like Christmas - I can't really imagine being any happier than when I am surrounded by my family like this!
- Thursday in North Wales
- [Thursday 22nd September]
We had arrived at Dad's late the previous night, and after a long sleep we got up, had brunch, and then thought about heading out for the day. Dad took us to a stretch of coast not too far from his house (Porth Gwylan) where we went for a nice walk with Yates. It was really great to be by the sea! After this we popped into Pwllheli for a spot of shopping, a bag of chips, and the mandatory ice cream from Cadwallader's. Dinner was a very unusual and eclectic mix, including such rare and exotic dishes as vegetarian caviar (!) served on Staffordshire oatcakes, as well as some sauteed wild mushrooms Dad had collected that day. Also opened the bottle of Yoichi "Peaty and Salty" which I'd been carrying round with me the last few weeks since our visit to Hokkaido. This was very nice - Dad in particular really enjoyed it.
- [Wednesday 21st September]
Had a very food oriented day. Spent most of the daytime with Mum, and for the majority of the afternoon me, Mum and Chie were in the kitchen, whilst she was busy cooking assorted delights, and Chie and I were busy eating them! She made her ever wonderful caramelised oranges, as well as some toffee popcorn - an old favourite of mine, whilst also at the same time making apple chutney in the background.
Alex came to pick us up just before 6, and he then took us to his house in Stoke (well, Newcastle under Lyme to be precise). This was to save Dad a bit of driving, who was on his way back from Guildford to North Wales, and was going to pick us up in Stoke on the way through. We all went for Indian food somewhere near Alex's house, at the Shalimar Balti Restaurant, and there I had possibly the best jalfrezi I have ever tasted. Another highlight was the giant nan - see the pictures - I have never seen anything quite like this before. I think the Shalimar has instantly jumped into my top 10 places for Indian food.
From there we drove on to Dad's house in North Wales, which seemed to take much less time than I'd imagined it would - well under three hours.
- Apple Tree and Walk
- [Tuesday 20th September]
Spent a fair chunk of the day outdoors, enjoying the pleasant English weather! Mum wanted me to pick some of the more inaccessible apples from the tree, so for the first time in many years I climbed that old tree in the back garden that I'd spent so much time in as a child. It was like riding a bike - I remembered all the old footholds, and particularly the wonderful smell of apple tree bark.
Later on Chie and I went for a walk around the village, and wandered as far as Hemington Hill, where I used to go sledging when I was young - so another trip down memory lane!
- Back in England
- [Monday 19th September]
Today was my first day back in England. Slept in quite late, having had a succession of late nights and early mornings. After a spot of breakfast (how I've missed proper English toast!) which was soon followed by lunch, we headed out for a spot of shopping. As we were in the area I decided to drop in on Russ to say hello too. Had curry for dinner, half made by Mum, and half made by me.
- More Travelling
- [Sunday 18th September]
"Oligosaccharides", said the Dutch biochemist standing before me, in a German service station near Osnabruck, as he unravelled a roll of liquorice. Sometimes I have moments where I think my life is just superbly bizarre - little things like this. Who could have predicted at the start of this year, that on September 18th, I would be standing on a bridge over the Autobahn, having the chemical composition of liquorice explained to me by a food scientist from the Netherlands.
[Click here to read more...]
- Yee and Hauke's Wedding
- [Saturday 17th September]
Today was Yee and Hauke's wedding - the reason we had come to Germany. It was held in Hauke's home town - Harsefeld - a small-ish place somewhere near Hamburg. It was my first time to go to a wedding in Germany so everything was a mixture of fascinating and at times a bit confusing, but overall very nice...! There was a short-ish church service in the afternoon some time after 3. The reception however, was by no means short - we arrived about 5pm, and didn't leave until 3am! The food was really good, we met a lot of really nice people, the wine flowed freely, even the music wasn't bad - it was, all in all, a very nice wedding.
- Sightseeing in Hamburg
- [Friday 16th September]
There was still another day until the wedding, and no doubt Yee and Hauke were rushed off their feet with last minute preparations, so we were very kindly entertained for the day by Man and Mark (Yee's sister and her boyfriend). They took us sightseeing around Hamburg, which I have to admit to having known almost nothing about previously, but I now feel like a minor authority on the subject. A particular highlight, despite it being embarassingly touristy, was the trip around the city on the open top bus. The tour guide was very good, although I did have to bite my lip on numerous occasions - perhaps I read too much into it, but there always seemed to be a hint of malice in her voice whenever we went past the site of any building which had been destroyed by bombing during the war. Still, there were plenty of nice buildings left that the British hadn't blown up, which everyone seemed rather pleased about.
- Travelling to Hamburg
- [Thursday 15th September]
Got up early to get a coach from Amsterdam to Hamburg. It was quite a long journey - getting on for eight hours (!) - so we didn't get to Hamburg until around 5. We were going to Hamburg for Chie's friends' wedding (Yee and Hauke), and so we were looked after by Yee's sisters - Ping picked us up at the coach station, and we were going to stay at Man's house. As it happens our friend Hide was staying there too, which was really nice.
After dropping off our bags etc, we headed to the outskirts of Hamburg, where Yee's family (her uncle I think) have a large Chinese restaurant. Here we had a "pre-wedding party" (I think there is a proper German name for it). This included some amusing German customs, like releasing ballons, and smashing assorted crockery. There was also a big buffet, and some very nice German beer on offer, all of which made for a very pleasant evening.
- Osaka to Amsterdam
- [Wednesday 14th September]
Long haul flights and changes of time zones make for rather confusing days, especially when it comes to writing a journal. So we flew from Osaka at about 10 in the morning, and the flight was about 12 hours. So theoretically when we arrived in Amsterdam, it was 10 at night Japanese time, but thanks to the time difference it was actually still the afternoon (around 3 or 4 o' clock), and so we had the whole evening still ahead of us.
[Click here to read more...]
- Off to Osaka
- [Tuesday 13th September]
As Chie and I were flying to Europe the next day, and the flight left fairly early in the morning, we needed to get to Kansai Airport (near Osaka) the day before, and stay a night there. In an attempt to save money, we got the coach rather than the usual Shinkansen, which took quite a lot longer. We arrived in Osaka some time in the afternoon, and got the train straight to the airport. We stayed at the JAL hotel - good because it is right next to the terminal building. Had tempura for dinner, a last taste of Japan for a while...!
- Last Night in Hiroshima
- [Monday 12th September]
Today marked the end of my long stay in Hiroshima - I was to fly to Europe on Wednesday, which would mean travelling to the airport on Tuesday, so this would be my last night staying with Chie's family. They gave me a very nice send off - a great meal at Sushi Tei, followed by a trip to a karaoke place for some singing and a bit more drinking. A very nice night out indeed!
- Shopping, Hair Cut and Fake Meat
- [Sunday 11th September]
As I was now nearing the end of my stay in Japan there were a few odds and ends to sort out. In the afternoon we went once again to Diamond City - the shopping centre near Chie's house. There we did a spot of shopping (mainly for omiyage - souvenirs), and also I got my hair cut at the same place as before. Got back early evening, and Chie made dinner. I ate some more of those soya piece things we'd bought in Printemps in Tokyo, which Chie had flavoured with soy sauce and ginger - very nice.
- Out with Kumada-san
- [Saturday 10th September]
Went for an evening out in Hiroshima with Chie, her parents and Kumada-san (a friend of the family). Started off at Molly Mallone's then went on from there for food and more drinks at an izakaya called Watami. Rounded off the evening at Bar Fukuzawa.
- [Friday 9th September]
Went for a day out in Onomichi, a small town not too far away from Hiroshima. It seemed like a really nice place, but I found it hard too enjoy to start with as it was just too hot. Listen, Japan's weather, IT IS SEPTEMBER NOW. It is supposed to be getting cooler. In England people are probably already putting on thick coats and shivering, yet here in Japan it is still painfully hot.
Not really a great deal to report about our day out - just had a general wander around, saw some temples and a few alleyways which were all nice. Probably the highlight was the waffle cafe, called "Common", which Chie had been to before years and years ago (apparently she lived in Onomichi for a while as a child).
- Day Out in Hiroshima
- [Thursday 8th September]
Went out for lunch to a place rather deceptively called "Maison de Croissant" - in fact it wasn't the slightest bit French, not so much as a bottle of Perrier in sight. Instead it was a sort of health food shop and restaurant, serving macro-biotic vegetarian (!!!) food, which was very much Japanese in style. I guess I ought to be grateful to have found a vegetarian restaurant, but this kind of super healthy food is not really my cup of tea - I'm not one of those vegetarians who does it for health reasons at all. The tofu was good though - it was in a sort of vinegary sauce with grated raddish (daikon), which was interesting.
Chie and I went into the city centre to do a spot of shopping (to buy some metal polish!) after this, and ended up staying in the centre all day. We went to this sort of leisure centre place, which had all sorts of different games and sports which you could play for a three hour period, all for just a few quid. I surprised myself by not being as crap as I thought I would be at table tennis and badminton. Or perhaps Chie was just letting me win to make me feel good?
After the game/leisure centre place we decided to eat out, and went for some nice (albeit a bit pricey) Indian food. We had a vegetable kofta curry and a sag paneer - both very rich and satisfying. Following on from this we wound up the evening with a couple of drinks in a cafe/bar just off the hyaku-metero-doro (hundred metres avenue).
- Another Day Indoors
- [Wednesday 7th September]
The typhoon seemed to have blown over by this morning... for some reason though, despite the notable improved weather, we didn't leave the house again. I think generally apathy had clearly set in. Really can't think of anything much to report - a bit of a waste of a day really!
- [Tuesday 6th September]
Today Japan was apparently "ravaged by a typhoon" - although in Hiroshima this didn't seem to amount to much more than a bit of stormy weather. Kyushu (the large South Western island) was hit rather badly, it said on the news, so I suppose I really ought to avoid the temptation to say "I don't know what all the fuss was about", and think myself lucky for having got off so lightly. Anyhow, the generally inclement weather persuaded me and Chie to stay indoors all day - although this wasn't necessarily so much difference to most normal days at the moment. Besides, there wouldn't have been much to go out for anyway - most businesses had shut up shop as a precaution, and a lot of public transport wasn't running either. So I spent another day largely on the computer, doing odds and ends of work on the site, many of the things I had been meaning to do for a while now and had never got round to.
- A Bit of an Overhaul
- [Monday 5th September]
Spent a fair amount of the day overhauling the main page of the 'Maison. I was determined to try and make it a bit more "live" and clean up a lot of the links to the parts that are probably not accessed much any more.
In addition to a fair amount of time on the computer, I did venture out for a bit towards the end of the afternoon, to go over to Diamond City (the nearby shopping centre) with Chie and her Mum for a spot of shopping. I made dinner for the family (well, Chie and her Mum) - having managed to find some rather nice olives (in oil rather than brine) I made a very rich tomato, olive and caper pasta sauce, which, although I say so myself, was rather nice.
- Eating too Much
- [Sunday 4th September]
Went over to Miyajima-Guchi (the port where the ferry to Miyajima goes from) to have lunch with Chie's aunt and uncle. Had a huge (and very tasty) meal. Was also forced to drink quite a lot, as you can imagine this was entirely against my will, honestly! Lunch seemed to roll on through most of the afternoon, and when we finally left and went to Chie's parents house dinner was waiting for us. I felt like I didn't really stop eating all day, and went to bed feeling very bloated indeed!
- A Walk by the Sea
- [Saturday 3rd September]
Was exceptionally lazy for most of the day, didn't do anything at all until gone 5, when it was determined we ought to go out for a bit. Went to a short stretch of coast, not too far from where Chie's family lives, for a bit of a walk by the sea. It was quite nice there actually - less man managed than Japanese coastline in this area usually is.
Watched Le Battement d'ailes du Papillon in the evening, which I'd chosen in the video rental place largely just because I like Audrey Tautou. It was... OK I suppose. Unfortunately (although perhaps rightly so) it was the Japanese version, so there was no option for English sound or subtitles... I could make out a fair amount of the French, but it made it sort of hard work, and as it was late at night I was finding it a bit tiring towards the end.
- Tofu Burgers
- [Friday 2nd September]
Not a particularly eventful day - the highlight being that Chie made dinner for me again - tonight I had tofu burgers. These were particularly nice as she had rather stylishly "personalised" these with some kagome ketchup (see picture), I was very pleased indeed.
Watched Super Size Me in the afternoon, quite enjoyed it, but it made me feel like I was very, very unhealthy... I determined I ought to try and improve my diet etc forthwith.
- Thai Curry
- [Thursday 1st September]
Stayed in all day, had pasta for lunch and then Thai Curry for dinner. The Thai Green Curry was made using these soya piece things we had recently bought in Printemps in Tokyo. Chie cooked, and it was very nice indeed.
- All by Myself...
- [Wednesday 31st August]
Given that me and Chie are unemployed at the moment (by choice!) we've been spending pretty much 24 hours a day together, non-stop for several months... Naturally now and again we start to wind each other up a bit! So I determined for the greater good, I ought to be the one to make a sacrifice and selflessly go out for the night. Given that I don't really know anyone in Hiroshima, I thought sod it, I'll just go out by myself.
[Click here to read more...]
- Out for a Walk
- [Tuesday 30th August]
Went out for a walk in the morning. It was a place in the Hiroshima area - no idea what it was called. It was a really nice walk - to begin with we walked through the grounds of a temple, and then from there the path carried on up the side of a forest covered mountain. Apparently the temple is the same Buddhist sect as the temples in Koya-san (see here and here). The walk was tough going, for me at least, on the way up (new Japanese vocabular: nobori), given that I am just not used to walking in hot temperatures. The way back down (another new Japanese word: kudari) was very pleasant though...!
Had lunch in Q-Gardens - a sort of shopping centre or something in Hiroshima with lots of restaurants in. Don't particularly recall what we did the rest of the day, probably nothing special! I think I had atsuage and kim-chi for dinner - a bit basic but sometimes simple things are just exactly what you want.
- Champagne and Sushi
- [Moday 29th August]
Didn't do much in the daytime - slept most of the morning (and some of the afternoon!) to recover from the unpleasantness of the night bus, and the general excess of the previous weeked. Had temaki sushi (the DIY variety!) for dinner, accompanied by a bottle of champagne, which Chie's parents had very kindly bought to celebrate me signing the contract for my new job.