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
- John's Pictures
Main Index (text only)
- John's Travel
- Other Related Sites:
Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Meeting Sheri
Back to London
Beck and Dave's Wedding
On the way to Clearwell
Pumpkins, Apples and Cats
Baker and Spice and Canteen
Oliveto and the Crane and Tortoise
Brunch at the Boisdale
London Metropolitan Archives
Arty Day Out with Masumi-san
After work drinks.
Ye Old Mitre with Masumi-san
Twickenham Pubs with Andy
Fortnum and Mason Champage of the Month - Veuve Fourny
- Meeting Sheri
- [Thursday 28th October 2010]
Sheri, long time denizen of the Maison de Stuff, announced that he was going to be spending a few days in London this week with his wife Christelle, and so, forthwith, a plan to meet up was arranged.
Pleasingly, Sheri actually asked to be taken on a tour of some of my favourite pubs, so the plan for the evening was extremely simple. We met up at the Cittie of Yorke, and from there proceeded to visit the Old Bank of England (mainly because I was sure we'd be able to find a table and some mediocre food) followed by the Seven Stars and finally Ye Old Mitre.
We were also joined by Chie, and Tom, who was working in London for the day, so in the end a pretty decent sized group.
Conversation ranged over a variety of topics, the trials and tribulations of being a parent, the cost of living in our respective cities, Sheri's fascinating family history, art, films, celebrities and well all sorts really.
It was a lovely evening - Sheri probably won't thank me for revealing that he's actually a gentleman in real life, and not exactly the vagabond he portrays himself as here on the Maison! Christelle is lovely too, and both Sheri and I were delighted to see how Chie and her seemed to immediately get on.
- Back to London
- [Wednesday 27th October]
Drove back from Clearwell Castle to London this morning. The first part of the drive took us through the Wye Valley, which was looking even more beautiful than usual given the clear blue sky and the distinctly autumnal tones of the leaves on the trees. I wish we'd stopped to take some pictures.
Having spent some time looking for a place to buy in London over the past few months, and then having been subsequently asked (perhaps "nagged" is a more appropriate term) about this by every single member of my family at the wedding yesterday, I've started to get thoroughly disillusioned with the whole idea of buying in London - it's just hard to get enthusiastic about spending all that money for a tiny place which is likely to end up being in a less-than-idyllic area.
Driving through the Wye Valley this morning got me daydreaming about buying somewhere here instead. For half the price of the two bedroom flat in London we'd been looking at we could buy a three bedroom cottage in the Wye Valley, just over the bridge from the Boat Inn, and with the path leading up to Offa's Dyke immediately behind us.
Of course it's not really practical though, it's a two and a half hour drive at best to London from there - hardly commuting distance - and I'm pretty sure even the idea of living there at the weekend and renting somewhere relatively modest in London midweek would quickly turn into a tedious grind.
We arrived back in London around lunchtime, dropped off our hire car and both went into work for the afternoon. I ended up staying until nearly 8 o' clock, making me wonder why exactly I'd booked a half day's vacation.
Had a quiet night in for the remainder of the evening, we were both pretty tired after the wedding yesterday.
- Beck and Dave's Wedding
- [Tuesday 26th October]
My cousin Beck got married today. For a long time she'd had her heart set on having the wedding at Clearwell Castle, in Herefordshire, close to the Wye Valley. Despite several setbacks they finally managed to pull it off - and, slightly odd though it was going to a wedding on a Tuesday - we had an absolutely lovely time.
Clearwell Castle makes for a fantastic wedding venue, and I shudder to think how much it ended up costing, even though it did end up being midweek. I remember visiting as a kid when it was open to the public, but as of a few years ago it is now exclusively used as a wedding venue.
It was great to see everybody there - just to get my Grandmother and her three kids together in one place at the same time is nowadays a rare enough event, but to have Mum, Dad and my brother Adrian all in the same place at the same time is pretty much a once-in-a-decade kind of event (seriously - the last time would have been my nephew's first birthday in 2003, and before that Adrian and Liz's wedding in 1997).
See the pictures for more details.
- On the way to Clearwell
- [Monday 25th October 2010]
Picked up a hire car after work and drove to Abergavenny, where we were going to stay the night with Vera and Robin before Beck and Dave's wedding the next day.
Stopped off at Chieveley services on the M4 on the way, and as we wanted to be as quick as possible, ate at Burger King. We had forgotten just how horrible it was - I think I'd pretty much always disliked the veggie burger there (a blob of non-descript mush in a limp roll) but apparently Chie said the meat version was just as bad.
- Pumpkins, Apples and Cats
- [Sunday 24th October]
In hindsight I suppose this was quite a Halloweed themed day, albeit a week early, and in no way intentional.
We'd planned to meet up with Mick for lunch, and eventually settled on the idea of going to Borough Market, where they were having a one-off Sunday opening for an apple festival.
As it was going to be Sunday lunchtime I thought we should try a restaurant there called Roast, which, as you can imagine, specialises in roast meals. Here's my review:
I ordered the vegetarian option (a stuffed pumpkin) and noticed the menu mentioned the roast potatoes were cooked in beef dripping. I asked if there was an alternative to go with the vegetarian option and they said they could do mashed potatoes instead (not really what I want for Sunday lunch in the first place), but that would have to be for the whole table! That just seemed crazy to me - there were three of us dining and I was the only vegetarian. After some debate the waiter said "I'll see what I can do for you" as though he was doing me a special favour. We eventually got what appeared to be one portion of mashed potato and one portion of roast potatoes - for three people. At £26 a head for two courses it's baffling that they're so mean over a couple of potatoes.
I didn't particularly enjoy the stuffed pumpkin, the filling was a kind of ratatouille with a few very small chunks of not-particularly-flavoursome cheese. It was pretty bland, didn't feel very traditionally British, so was not really not the sort of thing I want for Sunday lunch, and really did not feel like it was worth the £16 or so it is marked up at on the menu. My wife had the roast beef and was similarly underwhelmed, and even the potatoes cooked in beef dripping, over which so much fuss had been made, were apparently unspectacular. The mashed potatoes were too salty and too much like a puree - given that my main dish was lacking in texture too I felt a bit like I was eating a meal of baby food.
Desserts were better - I had a crumble with custard that was simple but good (but still not worth the presumably £8 ish price tag). It's a nice space too - very light and airy, and they had live jazz from 1pm... but the good points didn't really overcome the fact that the food was bland, overpriced, and the ridiculous quibbles over potatoes seemed nonsensical and overall a bit mean.
I don't think I'd go again, and my wife said the same thing.
After that we had a wander around Borough Market, wherein unsurprisingly I bought some apples.
We then headed up to King's Cross, to see Mick's new place there, and for Chie to spend some time with Mick's cat Coco, of whom she is very fond.
- Old Holborn
- [Saturday 23rd October 2010]
Chie went out to Kent for most of the day to visit a friend, so I had a day to myself.
I decided to go back to the London Metropolitan Archives (having also been two weeks ago) to try and find more about the history of the Seven Stars. I've been trying to prove that it is the oldest pub in London, to which end I'm trying to find records which prove its consistent use as a pub throughout its four hundred year history. You can see all the findings of my research here if you're interested. Although I didn't really manage to make any huge progress at the LMA today, from reading a book I recently bought (Lost London 1870-1945 by Philip Davies), and from various sources on the Internet, I've started to build a picture of what an incredible survival the Seven Stars is, if indeed it really does prove to be the original building. Had it been a hundred yards or so to the East, it would have been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Had it been a hundred yards to the West, it would likely have been demolished in the early 20th Century as part of the redevelopment of Aldwych and Kingsway. Had it just been on the South side of Carey Street, rather than the North side, it would have been demolished for the construction of he Royal Courts of Justice in the 1870s.
The records I was reading at the LMA today gave the names of landlords of the pubic houses on Carey Street throughout the early half of the 18th Century, but they don't include the names of any of the pubs during that period. So the earliest mention I've found so far of the Seven Stars in the records there is 1753 - I'd still need to go back another century-and-a-half to prove it really has been there since 1602.
After leaving the LMA I went for a wander around the old parts of Holborn I had been reading about, and took some photos of various buildings and interesting architectural features. It's a fascinating part of London, home to many of the best pubs, and plenty of interesting history.
- Baker and Spice and Canteen
- [Friday 22nd October 2010]
Went for lunch at Baker and Spice in Belgravia, wherein I had a big salad. Not quite as nice as the last time I went (today's salad selections didn't have quite as many things I like) but still quite good.
Went for dinner with Chie in the evening at Canteen on Baker Street.
- Big Ben
- [Thursday 21st October 2010]
Picture of Big Ben on a night out in Westminster with George.
- Oliveto and the Crane and Tortoise
- [Wednesday 20th October 2010]
Lunch at Oliveto, evening at the Crane and Tortoise.
- [Tuesday 19th October]
- [Monday 18th October]
- Brunch at the Boisdale
- [Sunday 17th October 2010]
Brunch at the Boisdale followed by coffee at Tom Tom.
- John Street
- [Saturday 16th October 2010]
- [Friday 15th October]
- [Thursday 14th October]
- [Wednesday 13th October]
- [Tuesday 12th October]
- [Monday 11th October]
- [Sunday 10th October]
- London Metropolitan Archives
- [Saturday 9th October 2010]
A visit to the London Metropolitan Archives for some pub history research. Dinner at Ye Old Cheshire Cheese.
- [Friday 8th October]
- [Thursday 7th October]
- [Wednesday 6th October 2010]
Made a rather excellent Indian meal at home tonight.
- [Tuesday 5th October]
- Piccadilly Circus
- [Monday 4th October 2010]
Tried to take some pictures of the real time tube status updates in amongst all the garish neon of Piccadilly Circus.
- [Sunday 3rd October]
- Arty Day Out with Masumi-san
- [Saturday 2nd October 2010]
An art themed out with Chie's friend Masumi-san, starting with breakfast at the Regency Cafe, then including a visit to the Saatchi Gallery and a wander around Hyde Park.
- After work drinks.
- [Friday 1st October 2010]
At the St. George's Tavern, with Iain and some other people.
- Ye Old Mitre with Masumi-san
- [Thursday 30th September 2010]
A visit to Ye Old Mitre with Chie's friend Masumi-san.
- [Wednesday 29th September]
- Twickenham Pubs with Andy
- [Tuesday 28th September 2010]
An evening out exploring the pubs of Twickenham and the surrounding area with Andy.
- Fortnum and Mason Champage of the Month - Veuve Fourny
- [Monday 27th September 2010]
Picture of the label on the bottle of Veuve Fourny bought from Fortnum and Mason.
- [Sunday 26th September]