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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A bit less ill
Cotton and Ben's
London Pub Crawl
Shopping and Stir-Fry
And on the seventh day...
Barry's Newbury Jolly
The Bell at Aldworth
- [Sunday 28th November]
Had a foody sort of day. Got up late and had toasted muffins for breakfast. Lolled about for a bit and then decided to pop to Waitrose to buy a few odds and ends. At Chie's request we also popped into Lidl but reassuringly even budget concious Chie found it far too pikey to actually buy anything. On arriving back home, had tea and scones, then set about tidying up the kitchen in preparation for a bit of a cooking marathon. For the first time in ages I made my own pastry, and with it made a sort of Quorn and mushroom pie, plus some mince pies. Chie made some kabocha (pumpkin) soup, and I also did a few roast potatoes and some vegetables. All very nice, although I did somehow seem to give myself a bit of a stomach ache in the process (maybe still a hangover of that dodgy rice from Thursday!).
- Stayed in
- [Saturday 27th November]
Chie went off to London for a day out and a trip to the theatre with some of her friends. I was feeling pretty lethargic so decided to stay in instead. In fact I didn't leave the house more or less all day. Spent a bit of time on the computer, a bit of time rearranging furniture, and the rest of the time watching TV. I finally left the flat at getting on for midnight, as Chie's train was late meaning she missed her last connection, so needed me to go and pick her up. It was the first time I've ever driven entirely by myself, but after an initial bit of nervousness I was pretty much fine.
- Taiko Nomikai
- [Friday 26th November]
After work, headed over to the Cotton Club where Shingo et al were having an "otsukaresama nomikai" (thanks for your hard work drinking party) for their recent Taiko performance. Despite having no real involvement in Taiko, me and Chie were very generously invited along. Had a big feast of chinese takeaway, and after an initial indecision about who was driving us home, some lovely Asahi. Mmmmmm.
- [Thursday 25th November]
For the first time in what seemed like absolutely ages I went to the pub after work. Initially Rich, Simon and Kev were in attendance, but after the first pint it was just me and Kev. We stayed in the pub more or less the entire evening. When I got home, in a somewhat ill advised move, I decided I wanted to eat rice. Unfortunately given my mildly inebriated state, I didn't really cook it properly, and subsequently had rather a bad stomach ache, which kept me awake half the night.
- A bit less ill
- [Wednesday 24th November]
I seemed to have improved a bit, so went back to work today. Chie on the other hand was still pretty poorly. I think we had pasta for dinner.
- More Illerer
- [Tuesday 23rd November]
Chie felt even worse today, and I was feeling pretty rough too, so we both had the day off work and lolled around the house feeling sorry for ourselves. I think we had sausages and mash for dinner, but don't really remember for sure.
- [Monday 22nd November]
Chie was quite poorly today with a cold, and I started to feel a bit rough towards the end of the evening as well. Had cous cous, halloumi etc for dinner, which was rather nice, and fortunately neither of our appetites seemed to be suffering. After dinner, watched a bit of telly, and spent a bit of time updating and tidying up the 'Maison.
- Swimming etc
- [Sunday 21st November]
We'd stayed the night at my brother's house, and got up at a fairly respectable time for breakfast, followed by a very pleasant morning chatting and drinking tea and coffee. We left Guildford before midday, and I decided to drive. On the way back we popped into Chie's health club for a spot of swimming and a spell in the sauna. Following that we popped into one of the new Marks and Spencer's Simply Food places to buy a couple of odds and ends. Made a truffle and chanterelle mushroom risotto for dinner, which felt very sophisticated, and was actually rather nice. Drank a bit of whisky and didn't do much else for the rest of the evening.
- [Saturday 20th November]
Spent the daytime lolling around the house not doing much (surprisingly had a bit of a hangover). Around 5 we headed for Guildford, as we'd arranged to spend the evening babysitting my nephew and niece. Little William was an absolute angel, surprisingly though it was Katie, normally good as gold, who seemed a bit reluctant to go to bed. That aside they were both utterly adorable as ever.
- Cotton and Ben's
- [Friday 19th November]
After work I headed to the Cotton Club, to see a bit of Witan (formerly Gyosei) festival. It was a bit sad as it was looking like this may be the last one. Popped out for a bit with Chie and Nozaki Sensei for some Thai food at Ben's before returning to the Cotton for more of the festival and more drinking.
- [Thursday 18th November]
Went to the supermarket as our food cupboards were running a bit low. The highlight of my purchases was a jar of Bovril - apparently there's not actually any beef in it any more, so it has now become completely vegetarian. I used to have Bovril a lot when I was a kid, and it was one of those things I was somewhat reluctant to give up on turning vegetarian. Amazingly, somehow or other it seems to taste the same. Had salad and pizza for dinner when we got back from the supermarket, and spent the rest of the evening watching TV.
- [Wednesday 17th November]
Popped out to the local supermarket when Chie got back from work and bought an odd selection of items - an apple crumble, some cabbage and some orange juice. Had a strange sort of dinner accordingly. I occasionally get this bizarre hankering for raw cabbage with soy sauce, which formed today's starter. My Dad used to make it when I was little so I guess it has some kind of psychological significance or something. For main course we cooked a pan of spaghetti and ate it one little bowl at a time with a variety of different experimental sauces. I started off with olive oil and soy sauce (I'd had this before in Japan with those cold noodles that are a bit like spaghetti), and Chie then made something involving mayonnaise which I wasn't too sure about. We then got out the jar of salsa truffina (made of truffles and black olives, half way between a pate and a sauce) that has been hanging around in the fridge since Lorenzo was here over a month ago (one of those: once opened, consumed within three days). This was very nice actually. We finished up with a more conventional tomato and olive sauce.
Had a couple of whiskies after dinner - first off a Caol Ila, which seems to just get better and better every time I drink it. Then after that my most recent aquisition - the Fortnum and Mason's 21 year old Port Ellen. This is just spectacular, despite the fact it probably costs about a pound a sip!
- [Tuesday 16th November]
Had take-away curry for dinner, as Chie got home late after going to the gym, and I was too lazy to cook. Watched Little Britain while we ate.
- [Monday 15th November]
The highlight of this evening was a loaf of bread. I'd had a bit of a pissy day at work, one of those where you get so fed up you write out your letter of resignation and keep it on hand just in case. To cheer me up, Chie had popped into the Italian shop near where she works and bought a loaf of their bread, which is simply fantastic. We don't know the proper Italian name for it, so, like many things for us, it gets labelled in Japanese - umapan - meaning simply delicious bread. This we ate with a salady sort of dinner which was actually very nice. Had a few glasses of whisky - a Scapa, a Laphroaig and a Bunnahabhain which complemented the umapan well.
- Beacon Hill
- [Sunday 14th November]
Me and Chie decided it would be nice to go for a little drive and then a walk. So I looked on the map, and decided to head for Beacon Hill, south of Newbury, to see what it is like. I drove both ways for a change. En route, some animal ran across the road (which I luckily avoided) I wasn't sure what it was to be honest - it was too small for a deer, but too big for a badger. Research since then seems to suggest it was in fact a Montjac deer, imported from China, which amazingly I had neither seen nor heard of before, despite apparently being apparently quite common here now. I put this down to the fact that most of my previous experience of British wildlife had been in South Wales, where it is probably a bit on the hilly side for the short-legged Montjac.
Anyway, it was quite nice on Beacon Hill actually, despite being right next to the A34. We didn't stay long, and on the way back I was a tad peckish, so decided to try and find a nice little country pub for a bite to eat. We meandered into a little village called Ecchinswell, and popped into the Royal Oak there. It was very much a "locals" sort of pub, not particularly olde worlde or anything but I guess it filled our basic requirements, so I mustn't grumble.
- [Saturday 13th November]
Barry had stayed over Friday night following the pub crawl, so in the morning, before Barry headed off home we went out for breakfast. Had a full English at the little cafe/eatery place in the village. Chie had stayed with a friend the previous evening (at least partly to avoid being around me when drunk/hungover!), and came back in the afternoon. For various reasons I'd started to feel a bit fed up around midday, so when Chie phoned to say she was on her way back, she suggested I go for a walk and I could meet her somewhere. I was very keen on this idea, so I set out on a good, solid walk, about an hour and a half, down to Theale, where Chie met me in the car. I drove us back home from there, and we did a quick spot of shopping in the village, then stayed in the rest of the day. I made a kind of stew thing, with these "soya chunks" I'd had lurking around in my cupboard for ages, cooked in a red wine sauce with shallots, mushrooms etc. It actually came out rather well, even though I do say so myself.
- London Pub Crawl
- [Friday 12th November]
I'd been planning this pub crawl extravaganza for several weeks now, with help from Kev along the way too. It ended up somewhat different to what we'd anticipated, as most of the people that had originally said they would go pulled out at the last minute, for an assortment of different reasons (although I think fundamentally none of them like me any more). So the final list of attendees was just me, Kev and Barry. I for one was determined not to let the poor turn-out hamper the occasion, and, although I can't speak for Kev and Barry, I think it was a really enjoyable outing nonetheless. We managed something in the order of 15 different pubs. Took some pictures along the way, which has proved an essential tool for remembering where we'd been afterwards.
- [Thursday 11th November]
Decided a quiet night in was called for. Watched Shaun of the Dead on DVD, which I have to admit not enjoying as much as I had in the cinema. Chie cooked dinner, we had stuffed peppers with some roasted asparagus and a salad on the side - all very green!
- [Wednesday 10th November]
Mark came over for a couple of beers and something to eat at the Cross Keys. Had a nice long natter about life, the universe and everything.
- Steering Committee
- [Tuesday 9th November]
Kev came over in the evening, for a spot of dinner (lasagne) and to help plan the route for our forthcoming pub crawl on Friday. Also watched Little Britain while Kev was there, and had a few beers.
- Shopping and Stir-Fry
- [Monday 8th November]
Popped to Waitrose to do a spot of shopping when Chie got home from work. Chie made dinner - a stir-fry with tofu and asparagus, which was very nice.
- And on the seventh day...
- [Sunday 7th November]
Following a pretty hectic last few days, I decided to have a complete day off today, and a nice long rest. Popped to the local supermarket in the morning to buy bits and pieces for a big cooked breakfast, but other than that didn't really leave the house all day. Made some lentil and tomato soup for a sort of late lunch, which we also had at dinner time with some soda bread Chie made during the afternoon.
- [Saturday 6th November]
Had an exceedingly busy day. Was out of the house before 9 and headed into London. Spent the morning in a Japanese career forum held at the Olympia, at which I drank quite a lot of tea, and had a very nice conversation with Reinasan, another atendee, whilst Chie was in a seminar. Left around midday and headed back to the centre.
Met Arakisan and Han, as well as Han's wife, at Covent Garden around 1ish, and went to my favourite Mexican - Cafe Pacifico - for lunch. I really enjoyed the food there, as always, and I think (hopefully!) my guests did too. After this we popped to Fortnum and Masons for a bit of essential omiyage (souvenir) shopping - including a must-have bottle of Fortnum and Mason's Port Ellen 21 year old for me. We then took a somewhat elongated and over complicated route by bus and taxi to get to one of my favourite pubs of all time - The Cittie of Yorke, wherein we enjoyed a selection of beers, and the girls supped on mulled wine. We rounded off the afternoon in style at the Whisky Society, and got theough a fair few single malts. I started Arakisan off with a Laphroaig, and I had my first taste of Yoishi, which was very good indeed, taking characteristics from almost all the Scottish styles. Chie had a very promising young Arran. The real stars of the show for me were two Caol Ilas - an 11 year old and a 14 year old. Both were brimming with aroma, very maritime noses, one even reminded me of prawn cocktail crisps(!). We finished off with a very respectable Glenlivet and a Macallan, just so as not to have shown too much of a bias to Islay.
After leaving the Whisky Society, and saying our goodbyes to Arakisan et al, we headed back toward home, as we had yet another engagement - David's fireworks party. Got there in time for the second "barrage", as they put it, and celebrated by cracking open my new bottle of Port Ellen, which, I have to say, I am extremely pleased with. Despite my extremely busy day, at the end of quite a busy week, I seemed to be full of energy, and stayed at David's until getting on for three (having bundled Chie in a taxi earlier, under slight duress). All in all a great day. Busy, but great.
- [Friday 5th November]
Went into London to have dinner with Arakisan, a Japanese professor visiting my university. We ate at this rather nice tapas bar on The Cut, near The Old Vic. During dinner, I asked Arakisan if he liked whisky, which got a pleasingly enthusiastic response, and thus set the schedule for the following day as well...
- Barry's Newbury Jolly
- [Thursday 4th November]
Went out in Newbury with a few people from work. We had quite a good turnout in the end including a "special guest" from our US office. Had dinner at some Italian restaurant in Newbury, which was actually very nice, despite our waitress being embarassingly common, and insisting on translating all the sophisticated Italian names for the dishes we were ordering into the likes of "fried cheese", "pizza wiv egg on", and "tumater pasta". I guess it was amusing up to a point, but it did nothing to lift the stereotype that other countries have of us being uncultured slobs. I cleverly steered clear of having any wine with the meal, thus avoiding any serious kind of hangover the next morning. Pictures to follow...
- [Wednesday 3rd November]
Went out for curry with Chie, Nozaki sensei and Shingosan. I probably spouted off a bit more than I should have done about the US election result, but couldn't help but feel thoroughly miserable at the outlook for the next four years. Still, at least the food was nice.
- The Bell at Aldworth
- [Tuesday 2nd November]
I've had a hankering for a while now to go and visit a pub I've heard a lot about (The Bell at Aldworth). So, tonight we had a quick dinner (spaghetti) when Chie got home, and then got in the car, picked up Kev en route, and went off down some dark country lanes to find it. I've never driven at night before, and for some strange reason Kev and Chie were shaking when we arrived. I can't think why. Anywho, this is a downright tremendous little pub, beautifully unspoilt, lovely exterior and interior, and also a really nice atmosphere. I can't actually remember the name of the beer I drank (just asked for the same as whatever Kev ordered), but that was a very good pint too. All in all a simply heavenly pub, and I think the hair-raising drive down dark country lanes on the way there only added to the experience. We were, however, keen not to overdo all that excitement, and Chie drove on the way back.
- Working Late
- [Monday 1st November]
Was working at a customer site in the afternoon and didn't leave there until gone seven, but did have the satisfied feeling of a job well done for a change. Met up with Chie at her health club around 8, and felt too lazy to go home and cook so went out for pizza instead. After we got home I didn't do that much, just watched a bit of telly and went to bed early.
- New Coat
- [Sunday 31st October]
Went shopping in the early afternoon (and I drove both ways!), but we didn't stay long - I really wasn't in the mood for it. On the plus side though, I did finally manage to find an acceptable new coat, which I am rather pleased with. Didn't do much the rest of the day. Had jacket potatoes for dinner, with some vegetarian kiev things, plus an unusual dish I knocked up on a whim consisting of cauilflower and green beans in a truffle and olive oil sauce. It was surprisingly very nice.
- [Saturday 30th October]
Having discovered recently that some of my ancestors owned a bakery in Romsey, I was keen to go and visit the place to see if I could find any trace of it. Nicer still was the fact that I was able to drive there myself, and Chie just came along for the ride. In Romsey, we found the street where the bakery had been, and a building on the same site, but not much more of a trace than that. Still, Romsey is quite a nice little town which was actually worth a visit regardless of my family history angle. After leaving Romsey I was really keen to get to the sea, so we headed South for Lymington, and went for a nice walk along the beach in Milford. Got back home around 6 or 7 and had curry for dinner.
- Staying In
- [Friday 29th October]
After a couple of boozy mid-week evenings, I decided it might be a good idea just to stay in tonight instead. Chie made dinner for a change, and we had a sort of Chinese meal, eaten sitting on the floor, which was very nice.
- [Thursday 28th October]
Gav came to visit, and we spent the evening in my local having a bite to eat, a few pints, and a good chinwag.