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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- Recent Entries:
- Shopping and Ballet
Getting ready for Christmas
Big Meal Out
Christmas Shopping in London
Sausages and Mash
Sunday in Cologne
Saturday in Cologne
Off To Cologne
Oh Christmas Tree...
- Shopping and Ballet
- [Monday 27th December]
Mum and Keith headed off after breakfast in the morning, and me and Chie headed into London for the day. Chie wanted to do the sales, so we spent most of the daytime in either Harvey Nichols or Selfridge's. Harvery Nichol's comes with the benefit of a rather nice bar on the fifth floor, so much to everyone's satisfaction I was deposited there whilst Chie did a thorough scouring of the four floors below.
We had an early dinner at Loon Fung in Chinatown - just about caught the end of the Dim Sum orders (although only had one Dim Sum) and had a sort of tofu feast, plus some ho fun noodles. We drank Shaoshing (Chinese rice wine, which tasted a bit like Bovril). After this we meandered over to Covent Garden as we'd managed to get tickets for the ballet - Cinderella at The Royal Opera House. I'm still not sure if I really like ballet that much, but this particuar performance was greatly improved by some sake I managed to smuggle into the auditorium.
- Boxing Day
- [Sunday 26th December]
Today we still had Mum and Keith with us, but in addition Adrian, Liz William and Katie also joined us for lunch. I decided to cop out and go for fairly minimal effort for lunch - pasta and pizza - although I have to say I was actually very pleased with the results. The rotelline (wheel shaped) pasta was a particular hit with William! In many ways today felt more Christmassy than the previous day - what with little kids running about, toys all over the floor, while the adults gradually dozed off in the corner.
Adrian, Liz and co left mid afternoon, after which our thoughts turned to dinner. I was keen to use up as many leftovers as humanly possible, so the natural choice was a stew. My kitchen really seems to have been blessed over this holiday period, as even this haphazrd mixture of whatever was hanging around turned out rather well. By the end of the day we were all pretty knackered - all this sitting around and eating is very tiring!
- Christmas Day
- [Saturday 25th December]
Got up at a reasonable time and started on the main activity of the day - cooking. At some point during the morning we had a break so me and Chie could exchange gifts. Chie gave me a hip flask with a little engraved caricature of me on it which I absolutely love. Mum and Keith arrived towards the end of the morning, and after a further present opening session we had lunch. We'd decided to go for the main meal in the evening so lunch was a light affair - some Italian housewife soup followed by a cheeseboard. In the afternoon we went out for a little stroll down to the Thames before, during which my hip flask was successfully road tested. On return the cooking began again in earnest.
I was really pleased with dinner, it was all pretty traditional (in my opinion at least) - roast potatoes, parsnips, brussel sprouts, cabbage etc etc... and almost everything came out as I was hoping it would. This was largely due to having a huge helping hand from Chie! Plenty of booze flowed before, during and after dinner of course, it was a great atmosphere, and all told I had a really great day.
- Christmas Eve
- [Friday 24th December]
Knocked off work early - our MD came round full of festive spirit and told us "you can piss off now if you want". Chie got back early too, which gave us a chance to get a few last odds and ends from the shops. Had a very quiet Christmas Eve really. I'd originally hoped to do some advance preparation for dinner, but in the end was overwhelmed by laziness and we just watched TV all evening, which was surprisingly good - saw both Shrek followed closely after by Chocolat. Got a little but of tidying up done inbetween.
- Getting ready for Christmas
- [Thursday 23rd December]
Spent the evening getting ready for Christmas, which mainly involved going to the supermarket to get all the food in, and tidying up a bit. Not much else to report!
- Off Sick
- [Wednesday 22nd December]
Having had a cold which had been creeping up on me for the last few days, just in time for Christmas, it finally seemed to break out properly today, and I felt pretty awful. Spent the day lolling around the house feeling rubbish, gladdened by the fact that daytime TV seemed slightly better than the norm in the run up to Christmas. For a change I left the heating on throughout the day, so it was nice and cosy at least, but as a side effect our Christmas tree is now shredding needles like it's got radiation sickness or something.
- Christmas Curry
- [Tuesday 21st December]
It was our office's annual Christmas curry today, at lunchtime, and as a precaution I also booked the afternoon off for further drinking potential. For some reason everyone seemed a bit lacking in energy or something (possibly because many of us seemed to be developing colds), so the post-curry drinking went a bit flat after a while, and we all went home about 6 or 7. Spent a lot of the evening doing a backlog of washing up, then when Chie got back from the gym she made stuffed peppers with cous cous in, which were very nice.
- Japanese Food
- [Monday 20th December]
Ate a very Japanese dinner, as we'd recently been able to get some fresh tofu which I am partially addicted to. Chie made a kind of Korean okonomiyaki as well, and we had a few other bits and bobs which was altogether very nice. All washed down with some lovely hot sake!
- Big Meal Out
- [Sunday 19th December]
Made a big Japanese breakfast, having been to buy Japanese food whilst in London the day before. Had miso soup for what felt like the first time in ages, plus some kimchi, some shiitake, and a few other bits and pieces. After that I didn't do much else in the daytime, but in the evening had a big meal out (at the Cross Keys again!) with Rob, Mark, Byrnie etc, as well as a couple of Chie's friends.
- Christmas Shopping in London
- [Saturday 18th December]
Having not really started my Christmas shopping in earnest yet, it occurred to me that this would probably be my last chance to make a decent go of it, so I decided to brave the crowds and head into London. Chie came along too, but naturally was required to go off and do her own thing for significant chunks of the afternoon. Shopping went reasonably well actually - I think I managed to find something for most of my family (with significant help from Chie's keen shopping instincts), plus I got a couple of things for Chie that I am quietly confident she'll be very pleased with. Amazingly I bumped into Rob and Kate towards the end of the afternoon, which was really excellent, especially given that we also had time to go for a quick drink and a chat.
Around 6ish I met up with Chie again, and then a little later on Akino joined us for dinner. We went to Kulu Kulu for dinner - the conveyor belt sushi place in Soho, and I have to say I was really pleasantly surprised. It was my first time in a conveyor belt sushi place, and I found it really fun, plus even Chie agreed the food was actually of very good quality. Took a few pictures while we were there. After dinner we popped into a little Turkish cafe a few doors down from Kulu Kulu for some Turkish coffee, some Baklava, and some rather excellent lemon pistachio nuts (which we'd been trying to find for years). We rounded off the evening with a quick drink in the Mad Bishop and Bear in Paddington before getting on a train and heading home.
- Simon's Birthday
- [Friday 17th December]
For Simon's birthday, Simon and Susanna had decided to come over to Pangbourne for dinner and a few drinks. Kev came along too, and there was also a rare appearance from Mr. Jon Ellis! We kicked off the evening with a quick drink at The Swan, before heading over to the Cross Keys for dinner. I had originally thought it might be nice to walk over to Whitchurch after dinner, but given that the weather was not so pleasant, and Jon had kindly offered us the use of his car, we decided instead to take the short drive over to Aldworth to visit The Bell, one of the few truly traditional unspolit pubs left in the country. There are of course some picturesof the evening too.
- Tidying Up
- [Thursday 16th December]
Went for a pint or two after work with David, Simon and Kev. Got home just before 8:30, and decided I ought to do a bit of tidying up and re-arranging as we were expecting visitors the next day. Our Christmas tree had previously been in the centre of the lounge almost, which although quite pretty, was actually a bit on the awkward side, and would have probably led to problems with anyone but me and Chie in the lounge. So we shifted the bookcase into the other room and put the Christmas tree in the corner. At this point we must have satisfied some kind of feng shui requirement, as all of a sudden the room felt like a really nice place to be in again.
- Sausages and Mash
- [Wednesday 15th December]
I made sausages and mash for dinner. As per usual I cooked the sausages in an onion and whisky gravy (this time using Old Pulteney, as I got a bottle very cheaply on the way back from Cologne).
- [Tuesday 14th December]
Went to Sainsbury's to do our weekly (ish) shopping, although I really wasn't in the mood for it. I became inexplicably very mean whilst in the supermarket, and our entire bill came in at under 30 quid - much lower than normal. When we got back had a Pizza Express pizza, which was OK although the base was a bit soft.
- [Monday 13th December]
Had a quiet night in. For dinner made a stir-fry with lots of odds and ends and some teriyaki sauce. Served it on some rice noodles. Actually wasn't too bad.
- Sunday in Cologne
- [Sunday 12th December]
Had another wander around the Christmas markets and so on. I'd hoped I could do most of my Christmas shopping here, but in the end I found it difficult to find anything I actually wanted to buy for anyone. Had a late lunch in a nice bar, before deciding it was time to pick up our bags and head off to the airport. The flight was, of course, delayed, and what with all the hanging around in the airport it seemed to take absolutely ages to get home. By the time we finally got back it was almost nine, and I only had the energy left to make some very simple pasta and the fall asleep.
- Saturday in Cologne
- [Saturday 11th December]
Spent an unfortunately large part of the day in my hotel room with a pretty bad hangover. This is probably, to date, the most luxurious toilet I have ever thrown up into. Finally started to recover around 2 in the afternoon, and met up with Chie and two German friends for a wander around the city. Headed back to the hotel around 6 to get ready before going out for the evening. After a frustrating taxi experience (he went completely the wrong way, then got stuck in very heavy traffic, so we got out and walked), we arrived at the place my company had chosen for dinner. This was very jolly, and the food wasn't bad either, despite taking absolutely ages between each course (dessert arrived just before midnight!). After the excesses of the previous evening, I took it pretty easy, just one drink in the bar next to the hotel after dinner, and I was tucked up in bed by 1AM.
- Off To Cologne
- [Friday 10th December]
Slept in until 11ish and then got up and started getting our things together for my company's christmas party trip to Cologne. Got a lift to Heathrow with one of my colleagues around lunchtime, and got the flight at around half three. On arrival we got the train to city centre, checked in at the hotel, and then went out looking for bars. Slightly disappointingly, given everywhere being opressively full, we ended up eating in the Hard Rock Cafe. I've never been to one of these before, and the shame of being a tourist was pretty overwhelming. Soon enough though, we were out of there, and as it was now a bit later in the evening, managed to find some "proper" bars to drink in, which was a lot more gratifying.
- Ronnie Scott's
- [Thursday 9th December]
By chance, Chie had seen an advert in a paper on the train (or something like that) that Lianne Carol was going to be playing in Ronnie Scott's this week. We'd previously seen her at Ronnie Scott's in January 2001 (our one year anniversary!) and her sheer unbridled amazingness had left a lasting impression on us. She was absolutely excellent again, as before, and the support act (Edgar Abraham from Puero Rico) were also very good indeed. Without wanting to sound like a teenager, both acts were just so, so cool, utterly spellbinding to watch. Had a generally marvellous evening, and didn't get home until 5AM!
- [Wednesday 8th December]
Finally got round to seeing Jon who I haven't seen for what seems like years. Took the afternoon off work and got the train over to Swindon, where Jon picked me up in his nice shiny Audi. Went to take a look at Jon's new house, and had a nice walk out in the countryside around dusk to go and see the Uffingham white horse. In the evening we headed back into the centre of Swindon for a spot of Italian food before Jon very kindly drove me all the way back home. Another one in the "we really must do this more often" category!
- [Tuesday 7th December]
As poor old Tom had recently been to hospital to have his stomach operated on, I thought I would attempt to cheer him up a bit by making some soup. I made one potato and leek, and one mushroom. Both ended up as "cream of" variants - as in, they needed to be pureed or Tom wouldn't have been able to digest them. Chie dropped me off at Tom's house on the way to the gym to deliver the soups, and we had a nice long girly chat about weddings etc.
- [Monday 6th December]
Had a quiet night in basically. Chie cooked dinner, we had Japanese food including stewed kabocha and green beans in goma.
- Oh Christmas Tree...
- [Sunday 5th December]
Having finally got the Hayne's manual for Chie's car, I spent some time in the morning trying to fix the radio/clock display thingy, which wasn't particularly successful. Following this rather disappointing start to the day, we decided it might be a good opportunity to pop and get some christmas decorations. We decided to go for a real tree, despite the inevitable needle-falling-off trouble, and bought just a few decorations - some "berry" lights (all white) and a few pale gold baubles. We decorated it when we got back, and although I say so myself I think it looks rather good. Made lasagne for dinner, which seemed to come out extremely well - probably down to using more cheese sauce than I usually would.
- [Saturday 4th December]
Spent the day in the city, which was really great - got up to lots of different things and generally had a very nice time. Started off by going to a clothes shop called Rellik, next to the Trellick Tower, where Shimbokun (a friend of Chie's) works. Apparently it is quite famous and lots of celebrities shop there - Sienna Miller had been in there the day before, which Chie was quite excited about, despite me not being particularly sure about who she is. After that we went for lunch just of Portobello Road in this little Japanese Cafe called Eclectic, in the basement of an art gallery which was very cool - we sat on tatami mat on the floor and everything. After that we had a wander through Portobello Road Market, where I bought a packet watch, and then headed to Farringdon. After perusing the array of Jewellers on Hatton Gardens, we stopped off for a drink at my club - we had a very interesting Springbank ("Oysters by the sea") and a particularly good Ardbeg. Following this we headed over to Selfridge's before finally meeting up with Han-Myungsan and his wife Chesosan for a spot of dinner at Sofra, a Turkish restaurant just off Oxford Street. At Han Myungsan's insistence we left London relatively early so we could get home in time to watch a Woody Allen film - Sweet and Lowdown - which he told us was absolutely excellent. Having not previously been much of a fan of Woody Allen in the past, I think this film may have changed my mind, as it was actually rather good. All told a really great day out. Took some pictures.
- [Friday 3rd December]
Wandered into the village centre to see the tail-end of the christmas tree lighting ceremony. Went for a beer and a mince pie at the 'Keys, and felt very festive indeed. I normally fight anything christmassy until just a few days before the actual event, but this year have decided to just give into it. Made gnocchi with a dolcelatte and spinach sauce for dinner.
- [Thursday 2nd December]
As a continuation of my "really must catch up with old friends" thing, I had arranged to see Simon tonight. Met up with him and Susannah at a carvery type of pub for (bizarrely) a kind of roast meal. I'd assumed this sort of place only did carveries on a Sunday, but apparently it is pretty much 7 days a week, 365 days a year roast meals: morning, noon and night. OK, perhaps not morning then. Still, the food was actually surprisingly nice. Had a good old natter, resulting in more of the "we must do this more often" sentiment.
- [Wednesday 1st December]
Dad and Janie came to stay this evening. I had originally planned to cook, but felt lazy at the last minute, and we decided to eat out instead. We braved the Ditty's "Ladies Night", which, it appears, is a suggestion rather than a hard rule - I might just about have slipped through the net, but my Dad's beard is probably a bit of a giveaway. After dinner we went back home, so me and Dad could sample a few of my new whisky acquisitions. He seemed to really like my new Fortnum and Mason Port Ellen, which I was very pleased about.
- [Tuesday 30th November]
Made curry for dinner, the same sort of things as usual, but found it slightly disappointing. Had a couple of beers with it though, which were much better.
- [Monday 29th November]
I was determined to catch up with my friends this week, so had spent some of the previous week making arrangements to meet up with assorted people. Thus tonight I went for a drink and a long overdue natter with Rob. We went to some metal night at some place or other in town, which made talking rather difficult, although on the plus side, if you have to have your conversation drowned out, I would much rather have it done by music like this which I actually liked rather than some mindless dance crap. Despite the volume difficulties, had a superb night, leaving me with that familiar "we really must do this more often" sensation at the end of the evening.