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:
- Olivogelo Again
Tiramisu Gelato at Olivogelo
Zoo and Party
Hana Yori Dango
Crass Bonus Day Celebration in St. James's
Black Winter Truffle and Gosset
Lunch at Al's House
Iron and Ties
Lunch at My Club
Belgravia with Al
Tickets for Royal Ascot
Zoo, Rossopomodoro and St. James's
Work and Play
London January 2016
Pictures from London at the start of 2016.
South Wales December 2015
Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th December 2015
Weekend visit to South Wales to see Vera, Robin, Louise, Bec, Dave and Jessica.
London December 2015
Pictures from London in the festive season.
London November 2015
Pictures from London in November 2015, including forays out to Huntingdonshire, the Bell at Aldworth and Cheltenham for The Open.
Italy October 2015
Friday 9th - Saturday 17th October 2015
A week's jaunt across Northern Italy taking in Venice, Bassano del Grappa, Vicenza, Verona, Mantova, Milan and Turin.
- Olivogelo Again
[Wednesday 3rd February 2016]
- Tiramisu Gelato at Olivogelo
[Tuesday 2nd February 2016]
[Monday 1st February 2016]
- Zoo and Party
[Sunday 31st January 2016]
- Hana Yori Dango
[Saturday 30th January 2016]
[Friday 29th January 2016]
- Crass Bonus Day Celebration in St. James's
[Thursday 28th January 2016]
- Black Winter Truffle and Gosset
[Wednesday 27th January 2016]
- Venetian Negroni
[Tuesday 26th January 2016]
[Sunday 24th January 2016]
- Olivogelo Again
- [Wednesday 3rd February 2016]
Having noticed yesterday that they still had some of last month's special at Olivogelo (mint chocolate chip), today I invited the girls down to lunch at my office, so that afterwards Erika could have some of her favourite flavour ice cream.
Chie and Erika then went to see friends in Chelsea for the remainder of the afternoon which worked nicely as they finished round about the time I finished work, so the three of us headed back home together, and ate jelly beans on the tube.
Oh, and as today was setsubun, when we got back home more beans were involved, this time dried beans which were ceremoniously thrown out the door and in the house, as is the custom.
- Tiramisu Gelato at Olivogelo
- [Tuesday 2nd February 2016]
Not really sure why but I've been craving ice cream the past few days. Odd considering the time of year. Anyway, as a result of following the account for the Olivo family of restaurants on Instagram I'd seen they had a new flavour of the month at Olivogelo - tiramisu - and so after a quick lunch at the office today I popped over there to try it. It was rather good.
In the evening, macaroni cheese for dinner, and then spent the remainder of the evening booking our flights for our next trip to Japan.
- [Monday 1st February 2016]
I like it when months start on a Monday.
- Zoo and Party
- [Sunday 31st January 2016]
Since spending New Year's Eve in the sole company of Erika, when it occurred to me how meaningless that must have been for her given she has no real concept of any unit of time much greater than a day, I've been keenly observing how her grasp of time is subtly but slowly changing. For a while now she'd routinely ask first thing in the morning what we're doing today, which had then gradually turned into asking the night before what the plan was for tomorrow, and from there (often when the initial answer is unsatisfactory to her) she'll then see what's on the horizon for the next few days. Although that said she hasn't yet entirely pinned down all the different names of the days of the week, so sometimes on, say, a Monday, she'll ask "What are we doing today?", followed not unreasonably by "What are we doing tomorrow?", but then slightly more surprisingly "...and what are we doing on Friday?".
It's a bit disappointing that most of the time I have to tell her I'm going to work, even though at the moment she only goes to nursery two days a week, so actually five out of seven days a week she spends the whole day with at least from one parent, and I am back in time for us all to have dinner together almost every evening which is much better than many Dads.
Still, I think this may be part of the reason we end up going to the zoo so much. I don't tend to do much planning in advance, on weekends I would naturally just wake up in the morning and see how the mood takes me, but Erika seems to like to book in a visit to the zoo, maybe just so she has a guarantee we'll be spending time together.
So that's what we did this morning. It was quite a rainy Sunday morning, and I didn't think a visit to the zoo would be a great success, but somehow we managed to have a nice time regardless. She's normally not that keen on going to the aquarium (I don't think she likes the lighting) but I managed to persuade her to spend a bit longer than usual in there, after which she seemed very keen to see jellyfish for some reason, which for some reason are in the building where the bugs are, so that was another indoor thing. That plus a bit of the usual "animals in action" show (fortunately held in a marquee), a ride on the carousel (choosing one of the drier horses on the inside) and then a wander round the shop and lunch in the cafe, seemed to add up to a satisfactory visit to the zoo without getting too wet in the process.
We headed back home after that, but then went almost straight back out again, as Erika had been invited to the birthday party of one of her friends from nursery. I had assumed Chie would be coming along to that as well, but apparently some sort of miscommunication took place and so I ended up taking Erika by myself. I had some predictable conversations with the other parents which at times veered inexorably toward the usual banal subjects like schools and housing, but other than that it was all quite pleasant. The entertainer was gratifyingly oddball (wearing more or less a tweed suit), and overall Erika seemed to have a nice time.
Back at home in the evening I decided to make a roast dinner of sorts - with individual toad in the holes (small Yorkshire puddings each with half a Quorn sausage in, which worked surprisingly well) and some roast potatoes which weren't as good as I wanted them to be, as always. Erika seems to really like Yorkshire puddings and enthusiastically put three on her plate, and, to my delight, polished them all off.
- Hana Yori Dango
- [Saturday 30th January 2016]
I had originally planned to go to Cheltenham today for the Festival Trials Day, which was to be a day off from parenting as my reward for having looked after Erika singlehandedly for ten days whilst Chie was in Japan at the end of December / start of January.
However, after Thursday's ridiculous excess I thought I should probably have a complete break from drinking for a few days, and it was hard to imagine going to Cheltenham without a glass of Champagne in the Golden Miller bar, amidst the tweed wearing classes (in many ways the main point of going), so I decided just to stay in London.
Instead, I joined Chie, Erika, and one of Chie's "Mamatomo" and her daughter for dimsum in Chinatown. We went to Golden Phoenix, which to me isn't a patch on Joy King Lau, but maybe that was just a vegetarian bias. Quality of the food aside though it all felt very wholesome and heartwarming and I was confident I'd made the right decision.
The title of this post is a well known Japanese proverb - "hana yori dango" - which means "dumplings above flowers".
The girls were going to a show after lunch, so I left them to it at that point and instead headed back in the direction of home, and did a bit of shopping en route, then spent the remainder of the afternoon cleaning the flat. Again, probably a form of penance for Thursday's over indulgence.
For dinner I made something I referred to as goulash (because it had lots of paprika in it) but I suspect would be unrecognisable to somebody from Hungary. Either way it seemed to be quite well received.
- [Friday 29th January 2016]
Nothing much to report.
- Crass Bonus Day Celebration in St. James's
- [Thursday 28th January 2016]
As I have often complained about in the past, I have almost always found bonus days to be an anti-climax. Before I worked for a company which had such things I had an image in my mind of wild parties; a day of unbridled hedonism, reckless extravagance, and general decadence of a thoroughly repugnant nature. The reality has always been that there is no perceptible difference in the office whatsoever, save perhaps a restrained murmur amongst colleagues about pension sacrifice schemes, and perhaps at best somebody talking about how they might get their kitchen remodelled.
I feel like this should be one day of the year when people go a bit wild and let off some steam to celebrate all their hard work. But no. Nothing.
I for one struggle with the mundane, the humdrum, the banal. It seems there is even a term in Buddhism for this - sankhara dukkha "the deepest, most subtle level of dukkha" (suffering). The Four Noble Truths do not exactly espouse a boozy evening in St. James's as an antidote to this, and, all credit to Buddhism, they were right - it wasn't really a long term solution. But that's what we did regardless.
It took some arm bending to get anyone from work to do anything really, but eventually I managed to corral some of the usual suspects to go just a bit further than the nearest pub, and some (but crucially not all) of them even managed to dress up a bit for the occasion. In my mind this was probably where the evening had its downfall. We started with martinis at the very civilised Dukes (which mandated a bit of an effort in the clothing department). But that civility is deceptive - their martinis are incredibly strong, and after two of them you should really just call it a night and go home. However, since some members of the group had refused to dress appropriately, we then felt duty bound to meet them afterwards, and effectively we were starting a whole new night out from that point.
I'm not sure it was even that good from that point on. We met the others at the Red Lion on Crown Passage, which, whilst usually a favourite of mine, isn't really the right venue for a celebratory occasion, and I got trapped in a conversation in the corner by an elderly couple who were well meaning but with whom I disagreed on just about every issue that came up. It seemed to be difficult to get the others to leave there, and while I did try and raise the tone a bit by attempting to order Champagne (it turns out they only had prosecco) it just wasn't really the atmosphere I was looking for, and I should have probably gone home before we even got there.
But no, somehow I determined it would be a good idea to take them all to my club (I don't think everyone in the group really met the dress code requirements there, but it doesn't seem to be strictly enforced). So then we were just the one rowdy group in an otherwise quiet and civilised bar. That didn't really work either.
We finished the evening at Brasserie Zedel, wherein I rashly ordered a bottle of Champagne that we realised none of us really had the stomach for.
I'm not sure what the moral of the story is. At least one clear takeaway here is that two martinis at Dukes is more than enough for anyone.
- Black Winter Truffle and Gosset
- [Wednesday 27th January 2016]
I had a craving for truffles this week - probably because it had been bonus day at work on Monday, and (see tomorrow's post for a fuller and more nauseatingly introspective monologue on the subject) it always feels like a crushing anti-climax after all that hard work, and I find a bit of mindless extravagance helps take the edge off.
So I popped out at lunchtime to do a bit of shopping at Fortnum and Mason. They had both white and black (winter) truffles there, but since I read somewhere that January is the tail end of the white truffle season, and they were unlikely to be at their best, I opted for black. As it happened though the chap behind the counter rang it up as a white truffle. I didn't notice that was what he'd done initially, and it's an interesting bit of social observation that, it being Fortnum's, I felt compelled to stoically pretend to be unfazed by the price of what seemed like far and away the worst value black truffle I'd ever bought. I then walked round the store for a few minutes, and once I'd confidently determined it was definitely an error I took it back and they corrected the price.
Also got my hair cut by Philip at Briggs, who I believe turns 94 in a couple of weeks time. We had more or less the same conversation we always do, but in addition he was rightly proud of having just received a lifetime achievement award at a ceremony at the Dorchester Hotel the night before.
So tagliatelle with black winter truffles and a bottle of Gosset for dinner, which all turned out rather well.
- Venetian Negroni
- [Tuesday 26th January 2016]
Made a Negroni with Select.
- [Sunday 24th January 2016]
Took Erika to the playground for a bit in the afternoon.
- Lunch at Al's House
- [Saturday 23rd January 2016]
Picture on the train on the way back from Al's house in Wimbledon, where we went for lunch.
- Iron and Ties
- [Friday 22nd January 2016]
Couple of odd pictures of the iron supplement I started taking recently, and some ties.
- Lunch at My Club
- [Thursday 21st January 2016]
Went for lunch at my club with Chie.
- Tom Tom
- [Wednesday 20th January 2016]
Jim and Andrew suggested going out for lunch today, and we somehow settled on Tom Tom, where, as ever one of their toasted sandwiches is not quite enough, so I ended up having a second lunch back at the office afterwards. As always when in any kind of civilised social setting my two reprobate luncheon companions ensured the conversation remained highly inappropriate throughout, and I felt rather bad for the two genteel Belgravia ladies sitting at the next table. Particularly as it is so cramped in there.
In the evening I finally got my blog up to date, having not updated it for pretty much an entire month!
- Belgravia with Al
- [Tuesday 19th January 2016]
Al suggested going for a drink this evening, primarily as we'd been having an email thread about plans for Royal Ascot, and my rather outlandish plan for being admitted to the Royal Enclosure, and he wanted to discuss it in person. He suggested that he'd come to Belgravia for a change, so we started out at the Horse and Groom, then went for an aperitif at Joe's (the Olivo chain's bar, above Olivomare), then dinner at Oliveto, rounded off with a final drink at the Boisdale. That was all very civilised.
- Tickets for Royal Ascot
- [Monday 18th January 2016]
In the past few days I'd got rather stuck on the idea of going to Royal Ascot this year (I think it had largely grown out of asking Al and Kyle if they wanted to come along to Cheltenham at the end of this month), and in particular I was rather fixated with the idea of getting into the exclusive Royal Enclosure. Having found a slightly outlandish "loophole" of sorts to get into the Royal Enclosure, despite not being a member, it's been top of mind pretty much constantly since last week, so I decided today to just get on with it and book the tickets. So that's something a bit special to look forward to this summer.
We had Spanish food for dinner, largely because we had a Spanish omelette that had been hanging around in the fridge for a bit and needed eating. On the way home, after the usual Monday evening commuting unpleasantness (I still don't really understand why Monday evening is consistently worse than the rest of the week) I attempted to buy a suitable bottle of wine, but didn't want to trek quite as far as Theatre of Wine, so instead had a look what was on offer in either the small Coop or the small Sainsbury's between the tube and home. Neither had anything of even remote interest, so I left both empty handed.
- Lazy Sunday
- [Sunday 17th January 2016]
Mostly tried to keep Erika entertained at home in the daytime, as we were a bit too lazy to go out (it was, in our defence, a bit cold, winter having finally arrived properly in the last few days). I did make one foray out in the morning to go and buy bread and coffee beans, but even for that I cheated and used the bus to travel less than a mile to the coffee shop.
Made the old stalwart lentil and tomato soup for lunch, which Erika actually ate (I think the previous time I'd done this she just picked the bits of pasta out and left the rest).
In the evening the girls went to see a friend of Chie's for a nabe party, and I was given a couple of hours off. Although, I say that, just as I was starting to relax I got a message from Chie to say Erika had dropped her toy rabbit out of her buggy on the way to the station, so I had to venture out and find it. On my way out I spotted a fox, very casually eating out of somebody's bin. I stood just a couple of metres away to take a picture, it didn't seem at all bothered.
Fortunately I found the rabbit before the fox did.
- Zoo, Rossopomodoro and St. James's
- [Saturday 16th January 2016]
I'm not entirely sure I understand the enduring appeal of the zoo for Erika, as quite often when we go there she seems fairly disinterested in the actual animals. In particular I'd assumed over the winter, when there's not so much on (no face painting, no bouncy castle) that she wouldn't be so keen, but somehow regardless it seems to still be a pretty much weekly occurrence. I suspect it's something to do with having my undivided attention for a while, and also partly the ritual of the gathering of snacks from the cupboard before we go, getting the bus to go there, and often eating the majority of the snacks on the bus. Last thing at night Erika usually asks where we're going tomorrow (and of course most of the time I have to tell her I'm going to work) and similarly first thing in the morning she'll ask where we're going today. Quite often at either or both of these times she'll also put in a request to go to the zoo at the next available opportunity. As she had asked several times this week I felt compelled to take her there this morning.
This time she seemed keen to go and see the giraffes, so we went straight there after getting in, and in fact we focused mainly on that side of the zoo - the meerkats, the rainforest bit, the lemurs etc. Other than that we pretty much just did the obligatory turn on the carousel, said hello to the penguins, then spent the remainder of the time in the shop. Which suited me on this occasion as it was warm in there.
I managed to persuade her to not have lunch at the zoo, so as we've done once before, we went from there to Rossopomodoro in Camden, where we met Chie for lunch. It wasn't quite as successful as previous visits, the service was rather slow which seemed to rather get on Chie's nerves.
I wanted to pop down to St. James's to do a bit of shopping in the afternoon, so I set off by myself after lunch, and had a lovely hour or two wandering around St. James's, and succeeded in my main objective of buying a pair of grey flannel trousers, from Hilditch and Key, of all places. I also bought some toiletries in D. R. Harris - which for some reason I'd never actually been into before, but became an instant hit - and of course violet creams from Fortnum and Mason, wherein I had a chat with the lady behind the chocolate counter on the subject.
As I'm planning a trip to Cheltenham at the end of this month (for the Festival Trials Day) I also had half a mind to look around for a new tweed suit - the two I currently have are, ridiculous as it sounds for tweed suits, just not really country enough. They're both from Walker Slater who seem to have a very different target market than, say, Cordings - far more eccentric dandies about town than the traditional country gent. When at Cheltenham last time I looked on enviously at the bright green tweeds which are absolutely unequivocally only for countryside use. Walker Slater's tweeds tend to be a much more muted palette. So I did pop into Cordings for a nose round, but their stock seemed a bit depleted, and it seems they only sell full tweed suits for a small range of their tweeds, none of which were quite what I had in mind.
Before heading back home I went to Chinatown and bought ingredients for dinner - Erika really like duck pancakes (mock duck in our case) and we'd recently ran out of the pancakes themselves, so I stocked up on those. At dinner we somehow managed to work our way through 18 pancakes. Erika may well have eaten 9 of these. Perhaps I shouldn't let her get too fixated on one type of food like this, but given the ordeal we normally have to go through to get her to eat anything at all, it's a joy to be able to put something on the table which she'll just eat all by herself without us having to intervene.
- Work and Play
- [Friday 15th January 2016]
Chie and Erika came to my office for lunch, we ate at the Asian themed cafe in my office, and Erika had sushi. Earlier in the week Erika had asked me "who did you play with at work today?", presumably thinking work was a similar setup to nursery. I explained that grown-ups don't go to work to play, they go to work. Whilst we were having lunch today, sat next to the ping pong table, the pool table, and the two foosball tables, she asked "what are those men over there doing Daddy?". "Um, yea... they're playing", I was compelled to answer. Without saying anything further on the subject she had a sort of knowing expression on her face after that, as if to imply she was resting her case.
Chie went to her Hiroshimakenjinkai in the evening, and I babysat Erika. I made macaroni cheese for dinner which seemed to go down quite well.
- [Thursday 14th January 2016]
Paid my tax bill today (in the past I've been able to pay it straight away when I've filed my return, for some reason this year I had to wait a couple of days). Oddly that felt quite satisfying.
Couldn't get into the underground at Victoria when I'd finished work today (I think just a temporary closure for overcrowding, but I really didn't feel like waiting in the scrum this time) so I got the bus home instead, which took ages.
Once I finally got home, after having dinner and putting Erika to bed, I booked my ticket and the train to go Cheltenham at the end of the month for the Festival Trials Day. I'd really enjoyed my little jaunt to Cheltenham back in November for The Open, the opportunity to be surrounded by the tweed wearing classes, and had been mulling over going to the races somewhere or other over the Christmas period as a reward for myself for having looked after Erika for those 10 days while Chie was away. I'd initially thought about taking Erika, but she didn't really seem keen, so instead found the fixture at the end of the month. Which is also good as I don't think I'll be able to make the festival proper this year.
On emailing Kyle and Al to see if on the off chance either of them might be free to come along too (neither of them were) I then hit upon the alternative idea of going to Royal Ascot this year, and spent the remainder of the evening trying to determine how to get into the Royal Enclosure without being a member (pleasingly, the answer is just to pay more).