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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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Erika's New Bed
Day Before Royal Ascot
Lunch at the Assembly House and Highgate Fair
Peckham but not Frank's
Zoo and Barbecue
Bank Holiday Monday
Ippudo and Iris
Orangey Venetian Negroni
Club and Negronis
- Erika's New Bed
- [Friday 17th June 2016]
Erika finally got a new bed today!
- Royal Ascot
- [Wednesday 15th June 2016]
Having been required to wear a morning suit for Al and Charlotte's wedding last summer, I had at the time made the possibly rash decision to buy one rather than just rent one, thinking that I'd end up with something a bit nicer that way, and I'd hopefully have cause to wear it again at some point in the future.
I may have had a fair old wait for another wedding at which I'd need one though, so instead, earlier this year, I'd starting looking into the traditional English social season, and in particular the events which require morning dress. It turns out there are only really two - The Derby at Epsom, should you be in the Queen's Stand, and Royal Ascot, should you be in the Royal Enclosure. Whilst at the Derby anyone who happens to be able to get their hands on a top hat can just pay for a ticket and get into the Queen's Stand, at Royal Ascot, in theory at least, the Royal Enclosure operates as a private member's club, and access for non-members is only by invitation from an existing member, who has been going for at least four years. I don't know anybody who fits this bill, so I instead looked for workarounds to this policy and discovered that, gratifyingly, the application of an eye watering sum of money for a hospitality package can obviate the need for such social connections.
So this morning, after dropping Erika off at nursery, Chie and I got changed into our finest attire, and got on the train to Ascot.
On the upside of having shelled out for a lavish hospitality package, we had a base for the day - the Wyndham Club in the Royal Enclosure gardens - which meant we had our own table throughout the proceedings, with an endless supply of Champagne and a surprisingly nice lunch and afternoon tea. Having had to rather unceremoniously resort to eating a bland sandwich from a cardboard triangle at the Derby, the five course fine dining at Ascot was all the more appreciated. My main course contained morels as well, of which I'm a great fan.
I absolutely loved our day at Royal Ascot. Funny really, considering we'd actually been on a work jolly 13 (!) years ago, and back then I'd been very much of a take it or leave it sort of opinion... but back then I had no real interest in sartorial matters, nor the fascination I now have with high society. I would probably have felt at best disinterested or perhaps even slightly intimidated by the Royal Enclosure crowd back then. Now though there seemed to be an air of magic about them, and to be able to walk among them, not even feeling particularly out of place was very gratifying. Whilst my morning suit is off the peg, it certainly looked a lot sharper than a lot off the hired outfits present, and my beautiful antique top hat was a source of immense pride throughout the day. Given that it is probably late Victorian who knows, maybe this isn't even its first outing at Royal Ascot?
The weather was quite mixed, and the betting was a complete washout - none of our horses even placed. But I didn't care a jot, I was having a thoroughly delightful time quaffing an endless supply of Champagne and drinking in the wonderfully refined atmosphere.
Alas the day did eventually come to an end, and it was time to go home. Having read that the trains on the way home can be a bit of a bunfight, and having seen the atmosphere deteriorate a bit after the Derby earlier in the month, plus also wanting to make it back for Erika's bedtime, I'd booked a chauffeur to drive us home. This made for a very comfortable and civilised end to the day, and got us back home in plenty of time for me to read Erika a bedtime story, still wearing my morning suit.
- Day Before Royal Ascot
- [Tuesday 14th June 2016]
Worked from home today, as we had a couple of people coming round to look at various maintenance jobs on the flat.
In the evening Mum came to stay, in preparation for Royal Ascot the following day, when she'd be babysitting Erika in the evening.
- Lunch at the Assembly House and Highgate Fair
- [Saturday 11th June 2016]
Went for lunch at the Assembly House with a couple of Erika's friends from nursery, and their Mums and Dads, having won £40 to spend their in a raffle at Kentish Town festival a couple of weeks back.
After that we all went up to Highgate for the fair, and were entertained by the delightfully incongruous mix of morris dancers and pearly kings and queens.
- Henley Badges
- [Friday 10th June 2016]
Badges for the Henley Regatta arrived today.
- [Thursday 9th June 2016]
Went to Frank's in the evening with Andrew and some of his friends.
- Peckham but not Frank's
- [Monday 6th June 2016]
Impromptu evening out in Peckham with the usual suspects. It turns out Frank's is closed on a Monday, so instead we went to Bar Story.
- Zoo and Barbecue
- [Sunday 5th June 2016]
Took Erika to the zoo in the morning. Met up with Chie for an early afternoon pint at the Pineapple, then in the evening had the first ever barbecue in our garden.
- The Derby
- [Saturday 4th June 2016]
See the entry on Royal Ascot for more background on my recent fascination with morning dress.
I'd been planning Royal Ascot from as far back as January, keen to give my morning suit an outing. It wasn't until the latter half of April that I'd discovered another racing event also has an area where morning dress is worn - the Queen's Stand on Derby Day at Epsom Downs. It had also proved much easier to get into - you just buy a ticket on the website, for not massively more than the normal price, and then show up. Given that, I obviously didn't have any expectation that it would have quite the grandeur of Royal Ascot, but it was a nice added bonus - an additional chance to wear my morning suit and top hat this year.
It also seemed to be much easier to get other people to come along to, being much cheaper and less effort to book than the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, so we ended up with a decent sized group of five of us.
Getting there was a big part of the experience, stepping out of the front door in a top hat and a morning suit for the first time was quite fun, particularly in our part of London, which is not particularly sartorially inclined and I suspect not brimming with countenance for anything which might be considered symbolic of the aristocracy. So the top hat met with some disapproving stares, which I found quite amusing.
On arrival at Epsom Downs, following the long trek from the station (again feeling slightly self conscious about being substantially more formal in our attire than most other people around us) we eventually reached the Queen's Stand, and set up camp on the Prince's Lawn at a good vantage point where we (A) had some seats, (B) could just about see the racing and most importantly (C) were very close to the bar. Rather incongruously there was a smartphone app for ordering drinks which I made use of to save a few fractions of a second each time another bottle was required. We worked our way through 5 bottles of Champagne in total over the course of the afternoon, which wasn't too raucous considering there were five of us.
Provision of food was a bit lacking, particularly for the probably ill fitting demographic of vegetarians, and so my lunch ended up being a rather bland sandwich in a cardboard triangle. Quite at odds with the otherwise glamorous atmosphere (well, it wasn't quite Royal Ascot, but we were drinking Champagne wearing top hats).
The betting went reasonably well, I overall made a small profit thanks largely to a surprise win from Harzand in the day's main race, although my winnings didn't really make a dent in the Champagne bill. To be honest I wasn't all that interested in the gambling today anyway, I just wanted to sip Veuve Clicquot and enjoy the top hat wearing atmosphere.
Things went a little bit downhill when it was time to head home, the atmosphere on the way back to the station was a little uncomfortable and wearing a top hat amidst the lary and rather less the sober crowd made me feel a bit of a target - one rather unpleasant lout chose to randomly hurl an insult in my general direction, from the safety of the upper deck of a bus. I found out afterwards there had been some arrests due to some small outbursts of violence. So if I did go again I think I'd definitely make alternative arrangements for the journey home, and it made me all the more glad I'd just booked a car for the way back from Ascot.
We had a bit of a wait for a train, in what seemed like a huge queue which couldn't possibly all fit on one train, but somehow we all got on, and even managed to find seats. So other than that one oaf it wasn't really too bad, but it did rather sour the occasion a bit.
That aside though I had thoroughly enjoyed spending the afternoon in a morning suit and a top hat.
- [Friday 3rd June 2016]
Got a buttonhole for tomorrow's Epsom Derby.
- [Wednesday 1st June 2016]
- [Tuesday 31st May 2016]
- Bank Holiday Monday
- [Monday 30th May 2016]
Lunch at Mildreds in Camden, and made sage and onion stuffing from scratch in the evening.
- Jim's Party
- [Sunday 29th May 2016]
Went down to Suburbitron for Jim's Birthday party.
- Ippudo and Iris
- [Saturday 28th May 2016]
Did a bit of shopping by myself in the morning (not very fruitful), then met the girls for lunch - ramen at Ippudo. Spent the remainder of the afternoon visiting Iris in Pimlico.
- [Thursday 26th May 2016]
Picture of the abundance of sage in our garden.
- St. John
- [Wednesday 25th May 2016]
Dinner at St. John with a few people from work.
- [Tuesday 24th May 2016]
Popped to Hornets in Kensington at lunchtime, hoping to find something to wear for Henley Regatta and/or the Chap Olympiad.
- Orangey Venetian Negroni
- [Monday 23rd May 2016]
Made a Negroni with Aperitivo Select and Williams Chase Seville orange gin.
- Club and Negronis
- [Sunday 22nd May 2016]
I was given some time to myself in the afternoon, so I popped to my club for a bit, then bought a couple of new bottles at Fortnum and Mason to make Negronis with.