John Hawkins



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:
Chinatown and St. James's
Jim's Birthday
Friday
Thursday
Wednesday
Kim Kong Kimchi
Leon's Birthday
Eurovision
Friday
Thursday
Andrew's Birthday
Fruit Fly
Vinegrowing Course Day 6
Lunch in the Garden and Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
Mario's Cafe and Erika's Sleepover
Coral Room and The Ritz
Vineyards of the United Kingdom Map
Bank Holiday Monday
Lewes to Glynde
Chie's Birthday
Day Before Chie's Birthday
Oliveto and Chapel Down Bar
Wednesday
Gospel Green
Office
Sunday at Home
Japanese Saturday School
Afternoon Off
Wednesday
Canele
Chie and Erika Back from Japan
Easter Sunday
Organic ESW Tasting
South Downs: Cissbury Ring and Harrow Hill
The Angel and Mao Chow
Organic ESW Lineup and Lebanese Food
Farringdon with Simon
St Albans
Sunday Lunch
Royal Oak at Wineham and Bolney Wine Estate
Ridgeview, Ditchling and Lewes
Thursday
Wednesday
Restaurant He and Holborn
ESW Prestige Cuvee Tasting Round Two
Chie and Erika off to Japan
Last Day of Term
Thursday
Vinegrowing Course Day 5
Hampstead
Saturday
TGIF and Wahaca
ESW and Science Show
Wednesday
Harley Street
Boiler Fixed and Sussec Dialect
Boiler, Pineapple, Afternoon Tea with Mum
Plumpton to Lewes
Tumble Dryer and Chapel Down Shareholder Pack
Egyptian Dancing
Monday
Sunday
Buds
Birthday
Cheltenham Festival
Sussex Drinking Song and Mock Pork
Chinese Food in Queensway
Shanghai Modern and Birthday Cake
Laksa and Party
YOCC
World Book Day Film Night
Wednesday
Vinegrowing Course Day 4
Cherry Blossom
ESW Pretige Cuvee Tasting
March
Wine Thermometer Again
Kelvin
Back from Australia
Sunday
Parkland Walk
Pink Buds
Ricardo
The Four Men: A Farrago
First day of Half Term
Hampstead Heath
South Downs Way - The End!
Old Sussex Inns
Early Signs of Spring
Pizza at Home
Filipino-Japanese
Jim's Birthday
School Trip
St. Moritz
English Sparkling Wine Prestige Cuvees
Vinegrowing Course Day 3
Jack and Jill in the Snow
Pizza and Slime
Snow
Bingo Night

Pictures:
London May 2019: Pictures from London in May 2019.London May 2019
May 2019
Pictures from London in May 2019.
Sussex April 2019: Two days in Sussex for walking and vineyard visits.Sussex April 2019
Friday 12th - Saturday 13th April 2019
Two days in Sussex for walking and vineyard visits.
London April 2019: Pictures from London in April 2019.London April 2019
April 2019
Pictures from London in April 2019.
London March 2019: Pictures from London in March 2019.London March 2019
March 2019
Pictures from London in March 2019.
London February 2019: Pictures from London in February 2019.London February 2019
February 2019
Pictures from London in February 2019.
Blog:
- Chinatown and St. James's
    [Sunday 26th May 2019]
- Jim's Birthday
    [Saturday 25th May 2019]
- Friday
    [Friday 24th May 2019]
- Thursday
    [Thursday 23rd May 2019]
- Wednesday
    [Wednesday 22nd May 2019]
- Kim Kong Kimchi
    [Tuesday 21st May 2019]
- Leon's Birthday
    [Sunday 19th May 2019]
- Eurovision
    [Saturday 18th May 2019]
- Friday
    [Friday 17th May 2019]
- Thursday
    [Thursday 16th May 2019]

Chinatown and St. James's
[Sunday 26th May 2019]
Lunch at Joy King Lau and a bit of shopping on Jermyn Street.
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Jim's Birthday
[Saturday 25th May 2019]
I piloted a boat along the Thames from Kingston to Hampton Court Palace and back again for Jim's birthday.
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Friday
[Friday 24th May 2019]
Accidentally washed my cufflinks. They seemed to survive the experience largely unscathed.
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Thursday
[Thursday 23rd May 2019]
Odds and sods.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 22nd May 2019]
A couple of pictures of the roses in bloom. Also Erika's friend came round for a play date, and to my delight they spent quite a lot of it outside in the garden, and chose to eat out there too.
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Kim Kong Kimchi
[Tuesday 21st May 2019]
My new favourite kimchi.
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Leon's Birthday
[Sunday 19th May 2019]
Went down to Canterbury for Leon's Birthday at the Pig at Bridge Place.
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Eurovision
[Saturday 18th May 2019]
Let Erika stay up late to watch (most of) the Eurovision Song Contest.
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Friday
[Friday 17th May 2019]
Not much to report.
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Thursday
[Thursday 16th May 2019]
Yet more pictures of the garden, and we went for dinner at Wahaca with one of Erika's friends, followed by ice cream.
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Andrew's Birthday
[Wednesday 15th May 2019]
Went to the pub after work for Andrew's birthday.
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Fruit Fly
[Tuesday 14th May 2019]
Having become briefly fascinated by spotted wing drosophila after yesterday's vineyard course I attempted to take a photo of a fruit fly at the office today. Not very easy to do.
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Vinegrowing Course Day 6
[Monday 13th May 2019]
Penultimate day of my vinegrowing course.
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Lunch in the Garden and Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
[Sunday 12th May 2019]
Lunch in the garden, then Erika went to a birthday party for the remainder of the afternoon. In the evening I went to see Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell at the Coach and Horses.
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Mario's Cafe and Erika's Sleepover
[Saturday 11th May 2019]
Went for breakfast at Mario's Cafe. In the evening Erika went for her first sleepover at a friend's house. So Chie and I had a bit of time to ourselves, I sat in the garden for a bit then we unsuccessfully tried to go for dinner at Babuji.
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Coral Room and The Ritz
[Friday 10th May 2019]
Visited the Coral Room at the Bloomsbury Hotel followed by the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz for "research" for my blog on English sparkling wine.
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Vineyards of the United Kingdom Map
[Wednesday 8th May 2019]
Took another picture of this to upload to Twitter having seen someone else had a similar one.
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Bank Holiday Monday
[Monday 6th May 2019]
Chie was out with friends for the afternoon / evening for an additonal birthday celebration so Erika and I had a late lunch in the Pineapple, then one of her friends came over to play.
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Lewes to Glynde
[Sunday 5th May 2019]
Popped down to Lewes for a short walk from there to Glynde.
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Chie's Birthday
[Saturday 4th May 2019]
Went to Hakkasan for Chie's birthday lunch.
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Day Before Chie's Birthday
[Friday 3rd May 2019]
Went for lunch at Alto by San Carlo on the roof of Selfridge's as a sort of pre birthday lunch for Chie. In the early evening I took Erika down to King's Cross to choose a present for Chie.
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Oliveto and Chapel Down Bar
[Thursday 2nd May 2019]
Went to the dentist today, which meant lunch at Oliveto afterwards, after which I popped to BBR to pick up some GevCham I'd ordered a few months ago. After work a quick drink at the Chapel Down bar in King's Cross.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 1st May 2019]
Erika had a friend round after school, and they had Chie's home made takoyaki (without any tako!).
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Gospel Green
[Tuesday 30th April 2019]
Gospel Green out in the garden - the traditional method sparkling cider I bought a case of a while back.
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Office
[Monday 29th April 2019]
Picture of the view from the office during a coffee break.
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Sunday at Home
[Sunday 28th April 2019]
Stayed close to home. Erika made soup for lunch, which we had with some baguette and Gevrey Chambertin from our local French deli.
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Japanese Saturday School
[Saturday 27th April 2019]
Erika went along to her first Japanese Saturday school this morning. In the afternoon I took her to a birthday party near Holloway Road.
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Afternoon Off
[Friday 26th April 2019]
Had an impromptu afternoon off for a long lunch with Ricardo and a visit to Alfies Antiques Market followed by later on Chapel Down's new bar in Kings Cross.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 24th April 2019]
Lunch at the Pineapple and another brief survey of the garden.
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Canele
[Tuesday 23rd April 2019]
Had some canele from our local French deli.
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Chie and Erika Back from Japan
[Monday 22nd April 2019]
The girls got back towards the end of the afternoon, and we had a quick indoor Easter egg hunt for Erika.
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Easter Sunday
[Sunday 21st April 2019]
Lunch at the Pineapple, then spent the rest of the day lazing around back at home, with an al fresco dinner in the garden as the weather was still very nice.
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Organic ESW Tasting
[Saturday 20th April 2019]
Held an organic English sparkling wine tasting on Primrose Hill with the usual suspects plus special guests John Mobbs, the founder of the Great British Wine site.
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South Downs: Cissbury Ring and Harrow Hill
[Friday 19th April 2019]
I went on a Good Friday walk in the South Downs in search of fairies - started at Worthing, then up to Cissbury Ring, lunch in Findon, then Harrow Hill and on finally to Storrington.
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The Angel and Mao Chow
[Thursday 18th April 2019]
Went for sunset drinks at th e Angel in Bermondsey then on the way home stopped for a late dinner at Mao Chow, a vegan chinese place in London Fields.
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Organic ESW Lineup and Lebanese Food
[Wednesday 17th April 2019]
Took some pictures of the lineup of bottles for the upcoming organic ESW tasting in the daytime, surveyed the garden, and in the evening went for Lebanese food on Edgware Road followed by cocktails in Camden.
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Farringdon with Simon
[Tuesday 16th April 2019]

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St Albans
[Monday 15th April 2019]
Night out in St. Albans with Al and Kyle.
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Sunday Lunch
[Sunday 14th April 2019]
Tried out the Sunday roast at the Lord Stanley then went to the garden centre to get a new grape vine.
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Royal Oak at Wineham and Bolney Wine Estate
[Saturday 13th April 2019]
Spent the morning happily pottering around in Lewes, then got the train to Haywards Heath, and a taxi from there to the wonderful Royal Oak at Wineham, where as an added bonus they were having a classic car meetup. After a superbly rustic lunch I walked from there to the Bolney Wine Estate where I joined their afternoon tour and tasting. Then another taxi back to Haywards Heath, and home.
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Ridgeview, Ditchling and Lewes
[Friday 12th April 2019]
I was originally planning on going to visit Rathfinny today, but when I called on the way down they told me they had sold out of sparkling wine, so I thought best to save it for May or later when they'd release the next vintage. So instead I visited Rideview today, then had lunch at the Bull Inn at Ditchling, then walked up Ditchling Beacon and along the ridge to Lewes. Spent the evening in Lewes, with dinner at the Lewes Arms.
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Thursday
[Thursday 11th April 2019]
A couple of random pictures, one of my new water bottle, the other of my lunch.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 10th April 2019]
Nice weather today, so a good opportunity to check the state of things in the garden.
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Restaurant He and Holborn
[Tuesday 9th April 2019]
Went for dinner at Restaurant He, a restaurant serving Jiangsu cuisine, followed by a stroll around Holborn.
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ESW Prestige Cuvee Tasting Round Two
[Sunday 7th April 2019]
Follow-up to last month's English sparkling wine prestige cuvee tasting.
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Chie and Erika off to Japan
[Saturday 6th April 2019]
Chie and Erika flew off to Japan, taking an evening flight for a change, meaning we had the day together first. Erika made another soup for us!
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Last Day of Term
[Friday 5th April 2019]
Last day of term for Erika, we went along to see her efforts in the Easter Egg race in the morning.
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Thursday
[Thursday 4th April 2019]
Not much to report!
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Vinegrowing Course Day 5
[Monday 1st April 2019]
Fifth day of my vinegrowing course.

Today's topics for the morning theory session were "vineyard floor management" (a subject which might historically have just been called "weed killing" but nowadays is portrayed in a more positive light) followed by an overview of approaches to sustainable viticulture.

As I remember my Mother saying many years ago, there is no scientific definition of what a weed is. It's simply any plant growing somewhere you don't want it to be growing. Opinions on the presence of other plants in the vineyard (apart from the actual vines) seem to have varied historically, and part of the reason the subject now tends to be referred to as the slightly more constructive "vineyard floor management" is the acceptance that there can be advantages to having other species of plant present. There are certainly disadvantages to weeds - chiefly that they compete with the vines for resources, and they make access more difficult. They can also harbour pests, and less intuitively can increase the frost risk.

On the positive side though, among other benefits "weeds" can help to prevent soil erosion (recently the subject of a report concerning Prosecco), they encourage biodiversity and the competition for resources with the vines can be a good thing as this can reduce vigour and encourage higher grape yields.

The traditional method for controlling weeds is cultivation (i.e. churning the soil up), however this tends to be a lot of work, and only briefly suppresses weed growth. Other approaches include temporary cover crops, mulching, flame weeding and using animals to graze on the weeds (sheep are apparently very common in English vineyards) - but, apparently, none of these are as effective as herbicides. Although we were told viticulture is approaching a challenging juncture in this regard, given that increasingly more and more of these substances are being banned and the industry will need to rely more on the alternatives in the future.

This led the way into an overview on sustainable viticulture - organic, biodynamic and other approaches. I hadn't fully realised quite how much snake oil there was in biodynamic viticulture - working to phases of the moon, and odd practices involving burying cows horns all sound a bit pagan to me, and not very scientific.

In the afternoon we headed over to the vineyard, and for the first time we actually had pleasant weather! It was very nice to see Rock Lodge and Deer Field in blue sky for a change.

Tom started by recapping some of subjects covered during the morning's theory session, and showing us some relevant bits of machinery which can be attached to a tractor for cultivation. We then headed out into the vines to practice attaching a new wire to the trellis, and then dropping the canopy wires down ready for tying up. He also showed us some examples of Pendelbogen training system, then we finished off back at the shed for a demonstration of the grafting machine.
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Hampstead
[Sunday 31st March 2019]
Late afternoon / early evening wander around Hampstead while Erika was at the cinema with a friend. By chance caught some Morris Dancing.
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Saturday
[Saturday 30th March 2019]
Erika opened her easter egg, I trimmed the hedge, we had lunch at the Pineapple, then for dinner we made pizza.
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TGIF and Wahaca
[Friday 29th March 2019]
Had a quick end-of-the-week drink at work with the usual suspects - haven't done this for a while - and we were encouraged by discovering that we had another office building near the one most of us are based in where we are actually allowed to take drinks out onto the balcony. Later on I took Erika to Wahaca for dinner.
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ESW and Science Show
[Thursday 28th March 2019]
A couple of bottles of ESW for the next tasting session arrived today. Also tried the "pet nat" I'd bought yesterday (didn't like it!). Later on went to the science show at Erika's school.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 27th March 2019]
Checked the garden in the morning. Another doctor's appointment at the end of the afternoon, this time in St John's Wood, after which I went for an early evening stroll across Regents Park and Primrose Hill.
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Harley Street
[Tuesday 26th March 2019]
I had a doctors appointment on Harley Street, after which I went for an early evening wander.
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Boiler Fixed and Sussec Dialect
[Monday 25th March 2019]
Got a plumber round who fixed the boiler in about two minutes (it needed a special key, not a screwdriver). Also the book of Sussex Dialect I'd ordered arrived today.
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Boiler, Pineapple, Afternoon Tea with Mum
[Sunday 24th March 2019]
The boiler broke down this morning - first time we've had any trouble with it since we moved in four years ago. Attempted to fix it but couldn't manage to, so in frustration gave up and went to the Pineapple. Later on in the afternoon briefly met Mum for afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason in St Pancras as she was passing through on her way back from Guildford.
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Plumpton to Lewes
[Saturday 23rd March 2019]
I did a short walk in the South Downs today from Plumpton to Lewes. In the evening Erika made dinner for us!
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Tumble Dryer and Chapel Down Shareholder Pack
[Thursday 21st March 2019]
New tumble dryer installed today. Also received my shareholder pack from Chapel Down.
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Egyptian Dancing
[Wednesday 20th March 2019]
Went to Erika's school to see a display of Egyptian dancing and drumming.
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Monday
[Monday 18th March 2019]
Just one picture of the moon through the cherry blossom tree on a street near where we live.
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Sunday
[Sunday 17th March 2019]
Just one picture, of one of Erika's drawings.
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Buds
[Saturday 16th March 2019]
Checked the buds in the garden.
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Birthday
[Friday 15th March 2019]
Had some local friends round for early evening birthday drinks.
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Cheltenham Festival
[Wednesday 13th March 2019]
Dragged Ricardo along to the Cheltenham Festival.
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Sussex Drinking Song and Mock Pork
[Tuesday 12th March 2019]
Spent some time in the evening trying to figure out what the original tune to the Sussex Drinking Song from Hilaire Belloc's The Four Men was. Tried some tinned mock pork with ho fun noodles for lunch.
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Chinese Food in Queensway
[Monday 11th March 2019]
Went to meet Chie and Erika after Erika's ice skating lesson in Queensway, and had dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant.
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Shanghai Modern and Birthday Cake
[Sunday 10th March 2019]
I went for lunch to Shanghai Modern, a new Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. As it was Erika's half birthday later on we defrosted some of the leftover cake from her birthday party and had it for dessert.
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Laksa and Party
[Saturday 9th March 2019]
Tried the laksa at Sambal Shiok for lunch, then took Erika to her friend's birthday party afterwards.
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YOCC
[Friday 8th March 2019]
Went down to Fleet Street to meet Andrew and Jim after work for a quick drink at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, followed by the Old Bank of England.
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World Book Day Film Night
[Thursday 7th March 2019]
Erika had a film night at school this evening (slightly confusingly to mark World Book Day), which amazingly parents were not required to attend. So Chie and I went for dinner at our local vegetarian restaurant while Erika was watching the film with her friends.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 6th March 2019]
Random photos from a weekday evening.
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Vinegrowing Course Day 4
[Monday 4th March 2019]
Down to Haywards Heath / Scaynes Hill for the fourth day of my vinegrowing course. I've got the transport arrangements down to a fine art now, meaning I no longer have to get up at quite such an ungodly hour to get there in time. I get the 07:36 train from Kentish Town, which with a connection at Farringdon gets me to Haywards Heath just before 9, and then I hop into a taxi from there to The Farmers in Scaynes Hill where the morning theory session is held. I've got into the habit of reading some of the relevant chapters of Stephen Skelton's incredibly detailed "Wine Growing in Great Britain" on the train on the way there, from which today the main takeaway was that Skelton is really in favour of steel posts for trellising systems rather than wood (given that wood inevitable rots / breaks).


This morning's theory session started with a recap on vine nutrition, where Chris, the course leader, showed us photos of various vines with different forms of malnutrition, and we had to guess which mineral was lacking. We were mostly quite hopeless at this.

The main focus for today was then site preparation / planting and then vine training systems (trellising). On the latter subject in particular, both from reading Skelton's book and from the lecture this morning, I was amazed about how even this seemingly straightforward subject area quickly got so detailed and complicated. There are many alternatives, however, as with pruning, where Guyot seems to dominate, it seems one system for trellising comes most strongly recommended - VSP (vertical shoot position), wherein you encourage the vines to do what they want to do (grow upwards) and just have a single curtain, which is easily accessible from either side.

As much as the course itself, I think I actually enjoy the tea breaks / lunch break where we have an opportunity to chat with the other attendees. It turned out one of the attendees had planned to buy Frithsden vineyard (which I'd visited last year) but the sale ultimately fell through.

After lunch we headed over to Rock Lodge vineyard for another practical session with Tom. This time we continued on the morning theme of trellising systems, Tom demonstrated tightening the fruiting wires, then we also had a go at post-pruning tying down which was quite a satisfying job. Tom also got the tractor going and showed us how to grub up a vine. Although sadly for safety reasons we weren't allowed to have a go at driving the tractor ourselves, which clearly everyone wanted to.

The practical session was cut slightly short by a sudden torrential downpour and hailstorm. I got quite wet getting from the far corner of the vineyard where we'd been tying down the vines to the toolshed, the only place which had any cover. By time I got there it had pretty much stopped.

One of the other attendees kindly gave me a lift back to Haywards Heath again, and I squelched into the Waitrose next to the station to see what local produce they had - I bought a couple of bottles of Sussex Wine (I was particularly excited to see Breaky Bottom in a supermarket!) and some Sussex bread and cheese.
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Cherry Blossom
[Sunday 3rd March 2019]
Finally the first few cherry blossoms have fully bloomed.
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ESW Pretige Cuvee Tasting
[Saturday 2nd March 2019]
Took Erika for breakfast at Bear and Wolf this morning, and picked up some dry cleaning on the way back. Once back at home we set about trying to moth proof our cupboards. Since moving to this flat four years ago we'd seen no evidence of clothes moths, but just in the last couple of months we'd spotted what appeared to be a couple of the little blighters fluttering about. Hopefully the combination of having sent a bunch of my tweed suits off to be dry cleaned and putting lavendar / cedar / tea tree oil in the cupboards today will nip this in the bud.

In the afternoon, I headed down to see friends in Honor Oak Park in South London, where we had arranged to hold a tasting session for three English sparkling wine "prestige cuvées".

Full write-up of that here.
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March
[Friday 1st March 2019]
So it's March then.
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Wine Thermometer Again
[Thursday 28th February 2019]
Tried out the wine thermometer again.
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Kelvin
[Wednesday 27th February 2019]
Bought a wine thermometer gadget for the upcoming tasting I was organising.
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Back from Australia
[Tuesday 26th February 2019]
Andrew was back from his long trip to the Far East / Australia today, so we toasted his return with some ESW in Granary Square.
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Sunday
[Sunday 24th February 2019]
A day without much of a plan. Ended up with an impromptu playdate with one of Erika's school friends.
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Parkland Walk
[Saturday 23rd February 2019]
Erika had a birthday party to attend in Finsbury Park, so I decided we should walk there along the Parkland Walk, which runs along the route of a former railway line from Highgate to Finsbury Park. Surprisingly nice weather for the time of year!
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Pink Buds
[Friday 22nd February 2019]
The first buds on the cherry blossom tree are very near to flowering now!
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Ricardo
[Thursday 21st February 2019]
Went for a drink with Ricardo in the Camden / Euston area, culminating in dinner at Murger Han.
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The Four Men: A Farrago
[Wednesday 20th February 2019]
Started reading Hilaire Belloc's The Four Men: A Farrago, and it seemed appropriate whilst reading a book about Sussex to drink some wine from Sussex.
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First day of Half Term
[Monday 18th February 2019]
Took the day off work as it was the first day of Erika's half term holiday. Didn't do much in the end though, mostly stayed at home, and took Erika to the Pineapple for lunch.
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Hampstead Heath
[Sunday 17th February 2019]
Afternoon stroll around Hampstead Heath, and some early signs of spring.
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South Downs Way - The End!
[Saturday 16th February 2019]
I probably should have waited for better weather for the triumphal final section of my seven month odyssey along the South Downs Way, but I had the day to myself today, and was impatient to get back out into the countryside, so forged ahead regardless. I had checked the weather forecast, which had originally suggested cloud in the morning but clearing later, whereas in reality it ended up being unrelenting fog all day.

As ever, the logistics required some thought today, given the limited buses between Petersfield and Winchester, but after some deliberation I eventually decided to start at Winchester, and get a taxi from there to East Meon. I'm always surprised by how expensive taxis seem to be out in the sticks, but I was time constrained, and doing it this way got me to East Meon by 9am to start my walk.

Last time I had seen East Meon on a very grey day, and thought it must be a beautiful spot in the right weather conditions. Today I suppose the thick mist made it quite atmospheric, but I would still like to see the village again with blue skies above it - it really is very pretty.

Anyway, I did not linger in East Meon, and after being dropped off at the church by the taxi (chosen for no other reason than it was where I got on the bus on my last walk), I headed purposefully out of the village, into the misty expanse that lay beyond. It's a good job the South Downs Way is so well signposted because I could barely see more than 50 metres in front of me most of the time.

The first landmark on my walk after leaving East Meon was Old Winchester Hill, where I had hoped naively that it might be sufficiently high so as to poke out above the mist so I could appreciate the view. Of course, this wasn't the case. So other than the reasonably steep climb on the way up I had no real sense of being on a hilltop. I walked around the perimeter of the ancient hill fort, greeting a few grey sheep along the way, but no views to be had whatsoever today.

The next section of the walk, between Old Winchester Hill, contained the muddiest stretch I encountered today, and my boots became notably heavier as a result. After crossing the old Meon Valley Railway, the path followed a pretty little stream with very clear water. to where it joined the Meon just outside of Exton.

Exton is another rather pretty village, similar to East Meon, but rather dominated in the centre by a grand country house surrounded by high walls - the eponymous Exton House. I took a slight detour from the South Downs Way here to have a look round the village, and then managed to lose my way slightly, the path leading out of the village being east to walk past.

After Exton, the walk started to get a bit tedious, if I'm being honest. The novelty of the mist was wearing off, and I really wanted to actually have some views. Particularly when it came to the steeper sections of the walk - typically the pay-off for the slog to get up a hill is that there will be a view from the top, and today that was not the case. There was a Beacon Hill about half an hour out of Exton which was a good case in point.

Given the lack of visual stimulation thanks to the unrelenting mist, from this point on my thoughts were very firmly on the lunchtime pub stop, and so I was quite pleased when around 12:30 I arrived at the Milburys.

It's a really interesting pub, in the middle of nowhere - not obviously part of any village as far as I could tell - and very old fashioned. This was evident immediately on arrival from the wonderfully dilapidated state of the sign outside - which was barely legible - and it couldn't be further from the awfulness of the blight of gastropub makeovers.

Inside there was much to like - an impressive open fire near the bar, then round the corner into the next room a 300ft deep well and a 250 year old treadmill. It's hard to imagine in the cold hard economics by which modern gastropubs are ran that such oddities would be allowed to consume such a significant amount of dining area. I chose the table squeezed in underneath the treadmill, and the slight fear of being crushed to death by an ancient piece of machinery should it become dislodged added a certain frisson to my lunch.

I hadn't fully planned what to do after lunch, and imagined the scenery nearing Winchester might be a bit underwhelming (more so given the stubborn refusal of today's fog to lift), so had thought about just cutting it short when an opportunity to do so presented itself. However that never really happened - there weren't any bus stops (without a several hour wait) along the rest of the walk, no were there any convenient places to try and call a taxi. So I just kept trudging on, for the remaining 3 hours it took me to get from the Milburys all the way to Winchester station.

There weren't exactly many highlights along the way either, the ridiculously named Cheesefoot Head was presumably the sort of place which might have nice views on a day without all this mist, but today I just walked straight past without pausing. It did at least have a characterful little wooded section leading up to it, with some nice trees. So there was that.

Beyond Cheesefoot Head I passed through the tiny village (hamlet?) of Chilcomb, the last settlement before Winchester.

I suppose I did feel some sense of achievement when I arrived at the last section of proper countryside footpath before Winchester, which crossed a large field, before then crossing over the M3. Beyond the M3 it was then of course an urban landscape, but it was nice to see that the South Downs Way signposts continued at least some way into the city.

I paused briefly at the last signpost I saw. Eastbourne 99 miles. It was nice to think I had indeed walked all that way. Admittedly, in dribs and drabs, one daytrip at a time, and now and again I'd deviated slightly from the route or cut the odd corner, but I had walked all the way from Eastbourne to here. Quite gratifying.

Arriving in the centre of Winchester was slightly overwhelming after the solitude of the walk today - so many people!

I would have liked to linger a bit longer, perhaps even have a celebratory pint in a pub in Winchester, but I felt compelled to get back home in time for dinner with Chie and Erika, so I jumped on the first available train at Winchester station and went back to London.

That's it for the South Downs Way then! There have been highs and lows, some sections glorious and stunning, others frankly a bit of a trudge. In fairness to the route, the difference between those two extremes was often more to do with the weather rather than the actual terrain. That said, it has been nice to see it in all the seasons.

So, the obvious question now is where next?
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Old Sussex Inns
[Friday 15th February 2019]
This book arrived today.
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Early Signs of Spring
[Thursday 14th February 2019]
Lovely weather today, and it felt a bit like spring was on its way. Also some Breaky Bottom arrived.
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Pizza at Home
[Monday 11th February 2019]
Home made pizza. Well sort of.
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Filipino-Japanese
[Sunday 10th February 2019]
Had a Filippino Japanese fusion lunch at Ramo Ramen, followed by Filippino ice cream at Mamasons.
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Jim's Birthday
[Saturday 9th February 2019]
Jim's birthday drinks at the Prospect of Whitby.
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School Trip
[Thursday 7th February 2019]
Volunteered on Erika's school trip to the John Soane museum.
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St. Moritz
[Wednesday 6th February 2019]
Took Erika to St Moritz (London's only Swiss restaurant?) for fondue this evening.
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English Sparkling Wine Prestige Cuvees
[Tuesday 5th February 2019]
I'd ordered three ESW prestige cuvees, planning a tasting some time soon, and they had all arrived by today.
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Vinegrowing Course Day 3
[Monday 4th February 2019]
Down to Haywards Heath / Scaynes Hill for day 3 of my vinegrowing course.

Today the topics we covered in the morning theory session were root stocks, vine nutrition and vine propagation.

The most famous reason that vines in Europe are grafted onto root stocks is of course resistance to phylloxera, but there are also benefits in terms of influencing the vigour of the vine and, relatedly, adapting to different soil conditions. The most common root stock in the UK is apparently S04 (a hybrid of Vitis Riparia and Vitis Berlandieri).

Vine nutrition is a fairly vast subject area, as it effectively comes down to soil science, something people take degrees in. The good news is that most issues can be identified by analysing a soil sample, and adding missing nutrients to the soil accordingly.

Grafting seems like magic to me - it's hard to believe you can basically get two sticks of different species of plant, pretty much just stick them together, and they'll actually then grow together. We were shown this video which shows what a lot of work is involved in the propagation of vines, yet another thing we just take for granted when drinking wine.

In the afternoon practical session in the vineyard Tom covered grafting in a bit more detail, and then we did a bit more pruning practice. I pruned several vines all by myself this time, and was at least reasonably happy that the end result was something along the lines of what it was supposed to be. We also practised a second pruning system - Cordon rather than Guyot. Given the multi faceted vineyard at Rock Lodge, some vines were pruned to this system, if I recall correctly these were the Pinot Noir vines intended for still rather than sparkling wines, where, in some cases, this pruning system gave better results - I think with still Pinot Noir you want slightly lower yields but a better guarantee of ripeness.
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Jack and Jill in the Snow
[Sunday 3rd February 2019]
Took Chie and Erika down to the South Downs to see the Jack and Jill windmills in the snow.
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Pizza and Slime
[Saturday 2nd February 2019]
Pizza at Rossopomodoro for lunch then spent the afternoon back at home making slime.
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Snow
[Friday 1st February 2019]
A dusting of snow on the ground.
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Bingo Night
[Thursday 31st January 2019]
Bingo Night at Erika's school.
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