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:
- Golders Green and Hampstead
Dinner in St. James's Park
Giving Chie a Break
Negroni and Crisps
Erika Ill Again
Trinity Buoy Wharf
Sunday in Abergavenny
Saturday in Abergavenny
Back to Work
- Golders Green and Hampstead
- [Saturday 19th April 2014]
Went up to Golders Green to meet Chie's friend Yoko-san and her family, and had lunch at the Old Bull and Bush. It's one of the pubs I'd had on my todo list for a while, and to be honest it was a bit of a disappointment - very modern interior - not really any sense of "old" left. Still, Erika slept through lunch so at least we were left in peace to eat.
From there we took a long stroll via Golders Hill Park (stopping off for an ice cream there), and the west heath, taking in the Hill and Pergola gardens, and eventually ended up in Hampstead. We went for a drink at the Horseshoe (partly so Erika could eat her lunch, having slept through ours) followed by a coffee from Ginger and White, and then we said goodbye to Yoko-san and co, and we walked down to Belsize Park to revisit some old familiar sights. Did a quick bit of shopping at the Budgens in Belsize Park, which used to be our local shop when we lived in the area, back in 2000/2001.
We decided to stop off at Euston on the way back, and popped into the Bree Louise for a perry, followed by curry at Diwana (with some takeaway cider from the Bree Louise, since it's a BYOB place). The paper dosa was particularly good today.
- Kew Gardens
- [Friday 18th April 2014]
We hadn't really planned much for the long Easter weekend, so last night I'd had a look around on the web for things we could go and do. There seemed to be some Easter stuff going on at Kew Gardens, and whilst it was probably aimed at older children, I'd also recently read that it looks particularly nice this time of year, with the bluebells and everything, so it seemed like as good a time as any to go.
Better still, whilst figuring out how to get there I discovered there was a boat service from Westminster. So the two things combined seemed like a great recipe for a full day out.
We only just made the boat, with barely a minute or two to spare - I'd sort of miscalculated how long it would take us to walk to Westminster pier, forgetting about the crowds of tourists around Parliament Square we'd have to push our way through.
Most of the best bits of the boat trip were at the start. Most boats from Westminster head East, so we usually don' get a chance to see the familiar sights of Westminster and Pimlico from the unfamiliar angle of the river. Even Vauxhall Bridge looked interested from the water. Despite the blue skies it was actually a bit chilly today, particularly with the cool breeze out on the water, and Chie found it really cold - so for much of the second half of the journey we retreated to the cabin below. They had a very reasonably priced galley, so we had a couple of cups of tea, and a bag of iced gems (!) - 30p a bag!
We arrived at Kew Pier around midday, Erika proceeded to fall asleep on the way into Kew Gardens, so Chie and I thought we'd take the opportunity for a quick lunch at one of the cafes before going any further. It was a rather basic affair - soup and half a sandwich - and we had to fight for a table, so our recent aspiration for a luxurious and leisurely relaxing lunch remains unfulfilled.
Anyway, since Chie still felt quite cold, we decided to spend as much time as possible in the various glasshouses (alas the biggest one was closed for refurbishment). The one with the palm trees in was particularly warm and humid, and I think that helped lift her spirits a bit. After doing the two big glasshouses which weren't closed for refurbishment, we went on the treetop walkway thing (which was wobbling rather unnervingly), followed by a cake stop around 3ish. I suspect this was the highlight of the day for Chie.
We finished off with a wander round the Japanese bits - the pagoda, the Japanese gate, and the Zen garden, then decided to leave by the Lion Gate and walk to Richmond station to get back.
Got the train back to Vauxhall, popped into the little Waitrose there, and for dinner we had a particularly rich and warming spaghetti bolognese, with a bottle of red wine.
- [Thursday 17th April 2014]
Erika had an Easter party at her nursery today, and the staff asked that we dress her up in bright colours - so we sent her in wearing her jinbei, which luckily still jut about fits.
Another pub lunch today, as one colleague in particular was very keen to get some more vitamin D, although the pub we went to on Tuesday (the Duke of Wellington) had no free outdoor tables this time, so instead we went to the Rose and Crown. Although it does have outdoor seating, it's a bit rough around the edges (rather incongruously, considering how close it is to Sloane Square), and the sun had gone in by this point, so all in all it was a bit of a disappointment.
After work, in the absence of any planned TGIF we held our own impromptu one, and a small group of us sat out on the balcony with a bottle or three of Champagne. It started out quite pleasant, but after the first hour or so it started to get cold, and the conversation seemed to get quite ranty, so around 8 o' clock we decided to call it a day and just go home instead.
- Dinner in St. James's Park
- [Wednesday 16th April 2014]
Chie went out for dinner with a friend this evening, so for a change I picked Erika up from nursery (I usually just drop her off in the morning). It was quite a nice day, and I didn't really feel like just going straight back home, so I decided we should go for an impromptu picnic in the park.
We went by way of the little Waitrose on Victoria Street to stock up on provisions and headed from there to St. James's Park.
Erika is of course far more interested in ducks and squirrels than sitting down nicely and eating dinner, but still it was nicer than just being stuck indoors for the whole evening.
- Indonesian Curry
- [Tuesday 15th April 2014]
Pub lunch today at work with a couple of colleagues, partly just because the weather was nice and there was a collective desire to site outside, partly to mark yesterday tumultuous changes.
Louise and Ian had given us an assortment of curry pastes for Christmas (a present we'd finally managed to pick up earlier this month) and I was rather intrigued to see an Indonesian curry paste among them. So this evening I made that, including an initial lightly flavoured version for Erika. That made for a pleasant break from the norm.
- [Monday 14th April 2014]
Very responsibly "tidied up" (as Robin would say) an assortment of leftovers for dinner this evening - so we ended up having quite a similar dinner to yesterday - moussaka with assorted Lebanese mezze on the side.
Also a rather significant day at work today - owing to some organisational changes it has been mutually decided that I would be moving to a new manager - I've been working for the current one for just about five years now, so this very much feels like the end of an era.
- Lebanese Picnic
- [Sunday 13th April 2014]
Erika still had a rather persistent cough which wouldn't budge, and was effecting her (and therefore our) sleep, so in the morning Chie took her to the weekend walk-in clinic. Yet again they said they thought it might have turned into a bit of a chest infection, so yet again she was prescribed a course of antibiotics.
After that, not unlike yesterday, Erika fell asleep, so we thought we'd try again to go for that leisurely lunch. Chie decided she fancied Noura, so we got there just after midday, and just as we walked through the door Erika woke up again. We felt rather crestfallen - and considered just leaving without ordering anything - but eventually it occurred to me they probably did takeaway. So we actually ordered the same things we would have ordered anyway, but to take away, and sat and ate our lunch in the little park in front of Noura. This was great as it meant Erika could just wander around the park, and if she made any noise we wouldn't be disturbing anyone. We still had to get up a couple of times as she attempted to wander out of the park onto the road, but overall it actually made for quite a pleasant impromptu picnic. It was rather lovely to see Erika wandering around in her carefree many whilst casually nibbling on a cheese sambousek.
After lunch, satisfied she hadn't missed out on anything, Erika promptly fell asleep again. We want for a wander through Belgravia, did a bit of shopping at Waitrose, then treated ourself to some ice cream at Olivogelo - the gelateria from the owner of my favourite pizzeria, Oliveto.
In the evening I made moussaka for dinner, which we ate with bits of the leftovers from our Lebanese lunch (where we'd ended up getting enough food for four people).
- Giving Chie a Break
- [Saturday 12th April 2014]
Chie seemed like she really needed a break today. So in the morning I took Erika to a Dads and toddlers playgroup. Although it's called "Just for Dads" there were actually quite a few Mums there. I got talking to a Japanese couple who had an 11 month old little girl.
That finished around midday, and Erika fell asleep just after we left, so in a pattern that was to be a running theme of this weekend, I thought Chie and I could go for a peaceful lunch somewhere while Erika dozed - Chie has recently expressed a concern that her and I hardly ever spend any time together without Erika there, who tends to demand our full attention. After a little deliberation we decided to go to the Brunwick House Cafe in Vauxhall.
Of course, as soon as we arrived there, Erika woke up. So rather than the leisurely lunch we'd hoped for, we had to go with the now wearily familiar routine of eating out with Erika, where one of us keeps her occupied while the other of us shovels food down as quickly as possible. Still, I suppose it was at least a nice setting - the cafe is effectively an adjunct to an antiques / interior design shop, and is packed full of an eclectic mix of chandeliers, lamps, and other quirky nik-naks. A surprising find for Vauxhall, which is otherwise doing its absolute best to resist gentrification.
So having the morning off followed by the not-particularly-leisurely lunch had not really made Chie feel sufficiently relaxed, so I offered to take Erika out for the afternoon too. We started off by walking into the centre from Vauxhall: along the Albert Embankment, past Lambeth Palace, over Westminster Bridge, and then to Charing Cross Road by way of Embankment. En route Erika fell asleep again - if only she could have done that an hour earlier!
I went into Foyle's and bought a couple of books for Erika, then went for a coffee in the cafe there while Erika was away with the fairies. Next I popped into Gerry's on Old Compton Street to buy a new bottle of creme de violet (I had a taste for Aviations again thanks to the summery weather) and whilst in there was excited to meet Hilary Whitney, one half of Sacred Gin, and was rather gushing with praise for their excellent spirit.
My next and final stop on my afternoon shopping expedition with Erika was the Japan Centre, where I bought things for dinner, an Anpanman magazine for Erika (she spotted it on the shelf) and a tamago-yaki pan.
Got the tube home from Green Park. For dinner we had an assorted Japanese meal, including tamago-yaki of which I was rather proud.
- Negroni and Crisps
- [Friday 11th April 2014]
I was in a promotion committee at work today which went on rather longer than I'd hoped - I didn't leave the office until 7 (and no TGIF!).
I'd rather hoped I might follow the tradition of past promotion committees I've sat on (See here, here and here) - previously always in Zurich - and go out to drink whisky afterwards, but Erika, although she had gone back to nursery today, was still not 100%, and I imagine Chie would probably need a bit of help in the evening.
So instead of the whisky I made to with a quick Negroni.
- [Thursday 10th April 2014]
Same sort of thing as yesterday - Erika still had a fever, although otherwise didn't seem too bad - so we felt compelled to keep her away from nursery. I looked after her in the morning, and Chie did in the afternoon.
In the morning whilst at home I tried to catch up on one or two chores, including packing up the Dyson Hot, which needs to be sent back for repair. Erika helped with this by covering it in stickers.
- Erika Ill Again
- [Wednesday 9th April 2014]
Poor little Erika has had a pretty rough time of it the past couple of months - she seems to just be constantly getting ill. She was sick again last night (although it seemed more like a one off than last week's stomach bug) and had a fever this morning. So we thought we'd better keep her off nursery. There was some friction between Chie and I over who would stay home to look after her - it's not that we mind spending the time with her of course, but we both feel a bit stressed by the amount of time at work we're losing because she keeps getting ill. Not Erika's fault of course - being at nursery is pretty much like spending four days a week at a germ warfare research facility.
So the compromise today was that I'd stay home in the morning, and we'd swap over at lunchtime (I had a couple of meetings I couldn't easily cancel in the afternoon).
- Tapas Takeaway
- [Tuesday 8th April 2014]
I think we have pretty much got to the point where we've given up on trying to take Erika out for evening meals in the week - after a day at nursery she's tired and doesn't react well to that kind of noisy environment. It was easier when she was younger and less mobile, but the last couple of times it's been a case of one of us basically holding her still, and attempting to distract her so she doesn't make any noise, whilst the other one of us can rapidly shovel food down so we can leave before she creates a scene. It isn't really much fun, and it certainly isn't very relaxing.
Nonetheless Chie really wanted to eat tapas from our local tapas place this evening, so the solution we came up with was to go and get takeaway from there. We weren't even sure if they did takeaway, but it turns out they do. Whilst the presentation obviously suffers a little from the necessary foil containers, the flavours were all pretty good still, and this actually did seem to be quite a satisfactory compromise.
- Trinity Buoy Wharf
- [Monday 7th April 2014]
Long time readers of the 'Maison will remember Sheri who used to be a contributor a few years back (nowadays it's really just me isn't it?). Anyway, I recently had an email from him, as he'd entered one of his paintings in a competition, and they weren't able to send it back to him, so it needed to be collected in person. As Sheri lives in France that would have been a bit of a trek, so he asked me if I could collect it and send it on.
This turned into a bit of a Monday morning adventure (the bar for anything to be considered exciting is set very low on Monday mornings) as the place I needed to go to collect it was all the way out at Trinity Buoy Wharf in E14. The nearest tube station was apparently Canning Town, so after dropping Erika off at nursery I walked over to Westminster and squeezed onto a jubilee line train with all the rush hour commuters. Unsurprisingly the train was utterly packed up to Canary Wharf, then pretty much empty after that. I don't think I'd ever actually been beyond North Greenwich on the Jubilee line before, so on arrival in Canning Town I was very much in unchartered territory.
It was supposed to be a 15 minute walk from there to Trinity Buoy Wharf, but being in very unfamiliar territory, despite having Google Maps and the directions from the Trinity Buoy Wharf website to hand, I managed to get a bit lost, and it took me more like half an hour. There were the sorts of natural obstacles in the way that one doesn't normally have to consider in central London - dual carriageways and rivers (not just the Thames) without bridges over them where you'd like them to be. I did an unhelpful circuit of the Limmo Peninsula Ecological Park, somehow believing it would help me cut the corner. It didn't.
Anyway, I got there in the end (oh and it started raining en route) picked up Sheri's painting, boxed it up, and managed to blag a couple of bin liners to protect it from the rain.
My return journey was significantly more efficient - I had noticed on the website as I'd been reading and re-reading the directions that there was in fact a ferry service operating between Trinity Buoy Wharf and North Greenwich Pier. This quickly became the highlight of my day - I love these little obscure boat services. I think I timed it just right - the little decommissioned police boat appeared at the largely unmarked pier just a couple of minutes after I arrived, painting under one arm, the other arm holding my James Smith brolly. I did not look particularly seaworthy what with that, in addition to my herringbone jacket and brogues, and it was a little precarious walking along the narrow deck at the side of the boat with all that clobber, but regardless the captain ushered me onboard, and I was in fact the only passenger for the crossing. The fare was a paltry £2 - I wonder if that even covered the cost of the fuel for the trip. It was a tiny little cabin, perhaps only six or eight seats, and there wasn't much of a view to be had given the rather grey and miserable weather, but the Millennium Dome loomed overhead in one direction, and the Emirates Air Line (the cable car thing) in the other.
So that got me to the Millennium Dome, and from there a relatively short walk to North Greenwich tube, and I was back on the Jubilee line. That's how you're supposed to cut the corner.
- Sunday in Abergavenny
- [Sunday 6th April 2014]
Not really a very good night's sleep - I'm not sure exactly what the issue was but Erika didn't seem to sleep very well at all, so I was awake from about 4am onwards, and didn't manage to get back to sleep at all.
Spent the remainder of the morning at Vera and Robin's house, trying to drink enough tea to actually stay awake, and also figuring out how to adjust Erika's car seat properly. We'd spent a long time dithering over what to do, now that Erika has outgrown the type of car seats which are easily portable, and in the end had decided just to buy one on Amazone, have it sent to Vera and Robin's house, and just leave it there for whenever we visit.
For lunch we went to the Bear in Crickhowell - we arrived just before midday so had a dining room all to ourselves to begin with, which was actually quite handy as Erika was a bit restless.
After lunch we headed back to Abergavenny and got on the train back to London. Sunday train services back from Wales are often slower than the rest of the week, but today it was particularly bad, and the total journey time from Abergavenny to Paddington was just under four hours (on the way there we'd done it in 2 hours and 20 minutes!). On the plus side most of that journey time was one very slow leg from Newport to London (3 hours 15 minutes or thereabouts) which of course made for a very good excuse to upgrade to first class. I suppose in hindsight it was actually quite a pleasant relaxing journey, just very long.
- Saturday in Abergavenny
- [Saturday 5th April 2014]
Got the train to Abergavenny in the morning, and spent the afternoon and evening at Vera and Robin's house. It was a bit grey and miserable, so we didn't really leave the house after we got there, apart from a short walk round the block with Vera so she could get a bit of exercise.
- [Friday 4th April 2014]
Blew some bubbles in the morning to entertain Erika before I went off to work. Had originally planned to take the afternoon off today and head to Abergavenny, but eventually decided I'd missed enough time in the office thanks to the tummy bug earlier this week so should really just get some work done.
Went along to TGIF for a bit in the evening.
- Back to Work
- [Thursday 3rd April 2014]
We were all feeling better today, so back to the normal routine again - Erika went to nursery and Chie and I went off to work. Not much else to report really!
- [Wednesday 2nd April 2014]
All of us were off work/nursery again with a tummy bug. Erika was probably the best of the three of us, and I thought she probably needed some "fresh" air (although actually London had a bit of a smog problem this week).
So in the morning I took her for a wander round the garden - and was surprised to find ducks there, paddingly in the little pool surrounding the fountain. Not sure if this was somehow a side effect of the smog. Later on I took her out again to visit the little playground by the side of the houses of parliament.
- [Tuesday 1st April 2014]
I took the day off work today to look after Erika, partly so Chie could go to work, but partly because I didn't feel so good myself either. I just about managed to cope for the morning, and then fortunately Erika slept for a large part of the afternoon as I felt pretty awful then. Whilst trying to catch up on some domestic chores I came over all feverish, and had to lie down.
I'm pretty sure I'd got the same thing Erika had, and felt queasy pretty much constantly the whole day. The only thing I managed to eat all day were a couple of biscuits around 5pm.
Felt exhausted in the evening so went to bed very early, but then woke up in the middle of the night and felt very disoriented and confused.
Fortunately at least though there was no vomiting today in the Hawkins house. It appeared - fingers crossed - that Erika was already on the mend, and I was going to get away with feeling sick, without being sick.
- [Monday 31st March 2014]
We kept Erika off nursery today, as apparently some forms of conjunctivitis can be contagious, and they'd made a particular point recently of asking parents not to bring their children if they have it. So Chie stayed home and I went to work.
As if two ongoing medical conditions were not enough (we were still at the tail end - if you'll pardon the pun - of the nappy rash issue) this evening after putting Erika to bed, she threw up. Then proceeded to do so another 5 or 6 times over the next few hours. This continued until about 2am or so, when she was finally able to get some sleep.
I think it was probably norovirus, which apparently is more intense but over quicker than rotavirus, which is probably what she had a few weeks back.