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:
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
Tuesday
Monday
Camden Garden Centre and Honest Burgers
Saturday
Burns Night
Oliveto
Soho with Ricardo and Jim
Garden Centre, Hampstead Heath and Keats House
Herb Stand, Ramen, Macarons, Truffle
Leon in London
Anniversary
Nest Thermostat
Tooth
Swimming
South Downs Way: Petersfield to East Meon
The Harrow Inn
Vinegrowing Course Day 2
Twelfth Night
Veggie Karaage
Highgate
Shakesperience
Wahaca and Plunger
New Year's Day
Cocking to Petersfield
Winter Wonderland
Bec and Jessica
Abergavenny
Thursday in Bristol
Boxing Day at the Zoo
Christmas Day
Christmas Eve
Christmas Party
South Downs Way: Amberley to Graffham
Forntum and Mason and St John
Carol Concert and Holborn
City of London
Saturday
Primrose Hill with Ricardo
Christmas Party

Pictures:
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.
London January 2019: Pictures from London and environs in January 2019.London January 2019
January 2019
Pictures from London and environs in January 2019.
London December 2018: Pictures from London in the lead up to Christmas 2018.London December 2018
December 2018
Pictures from London in the lead up to Christmas 2018.
Abergavenny December 2018: Weekend in Abergavenny to visit Vera and Robin.Abergavenny December 2018
Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd December 2018
Weekend in Abergavenny to visit Vera and Robin.
Blog:
- Royal Oak at Wineham and Bolney Wine Estate
    [Saturday 13th April 2019]
- Ridgeview, Ditchling and Lewes
    [Friday 12th April 2019]
- Thursday
    [Thursday 11th April 2019]
- Wednesday
    [Wednesday 10th April 2019]
- Restaurant He and Holborn
    [Tuesday 9th April 2019]
- ESW Prestige Cuvee Tasting Round Two
    [Sunday 7th April 2019]
- Chie and Erika off to Japan
    [Saturday 6th April 2019]
- Last Day of Term
    [Friday 5th April 2019]
- Thursday
    [Thursday 4th April 2019]
- Vinegrowing Course Day 5
    [Monday 1st April 2019]

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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Tuesday
[Tuesday 29th January 2019]
Just one picture of Erika with a bag on her head.
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Monday
[Monday 28th January 2019]
Tried Leon's "Love Burger" at lunchtime then in the evening had some South Ridge English Sparkling Wine (from Ridgeview).
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Camden Garden Centre and Honest Burgers
[Sunday 27th January 2019]
Visited Camden Garden Centre in the morning. Then lunch at Honest Burgers, where I had their Moving Mountains burger again.
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Saturday
[Saturday 26th January 2019]
Went to Borough Market in the afternoon then a bit later on did some shopping around Kings Cross.
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Burns Night
[Friday 25th January 2019]
Had haggis, neeps and tatties as well as Laphroaig and Irn Bru for dinner.
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Oliveto
[Thursday 24th January 2019]
Went to the dentist, and then lunch at Oliveto followed by gelato at Olivogelo.
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Soho with Ricardo and Jim
[Monday 21st January 2019]
Had an evening out with Ricardo and Jim in Soho.
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Garden Centre, Hampstead Heath and Keats House
[Sunday 20th January 2019]
Went to the garden centre in the morning to buy more potted herbs to put in the newly assembled herb stand. Took a stroll across Hampstead Heath around lunchtime, and stopped for lunch at the Parliament Hill Cafe. After that went to a kids event at Keats House in Hampstead.
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Herb Stand, Ramen, Macarons, Truffle
[Saturday 19th January 2019]
Quite a mixed bag of a day. Jeremy came round in the morning to assemble thhice herb stand Mum had given me for Christmas (which I'd struggled with myself). Ramen in Soho for lunch. I bought a white truffle from Gelupo, and also got my hair cut. Back at home we had afternoon tea including some macarons. Then truffle pasta for dinner.
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Leon in London
[Friday 18th January 2019]
Leon was working in London today, so we met up for some late afternoon / early evening pubs around Farringdon.
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Anniversary
[Thursday 17th January 2019]
Erika decorate a cake to celebrate the anniversary of when Chie and I first met.
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Nest Thermostat
[Tuesday 15th January 2019]
Had a Nest Thermostat installed today, and then spent the evening obsessively looking at thermometers because I wasn't convinced it was working properly.
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Tooth
[Monday 14th January 2019]
Erika's second tooth came out today!
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Swimming
[Sunday 13th January 2019]
Took Erika to the swimming pool in Finchley in the morning - it has a wave machine. After that, shock horror, lunch at McDonald's (!!!) then back home for the rest of the day.
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South Downs Way: Petersfield to East Meon
[Saturday 12th January 2019]
I had stayed the previous night in Petersfield, thinking I could then make an early start this morning and cover a lot of ground despite the limited daylight hours this time of year. I had an ambitious goal (which I did not achieve) to get all the way to Exton.

Although I did manage to set out from my hotel at 8am, my choice of accommodation (influenced by not wanting to be too far from the marvellous Harrow Inn) meant I spent the first hour just getting back to Buriton, which was still not even quite on the South Downs Way. This would probably have been a more sensible place to stay the night in terms of getting on the South Downs Way as quickly as possible this morning, but trying to get here in the dark last night after several pints of cider in the Harrow Inn would probably have not been a great idea.

It was rather a grey and dreary day today, and in addition to this my enthusiasm to be out walking was further dwindled by the mostly urban character of the start of the walk, as well as having perhaps ever so slightly too much cider at the Harrow Inn the previous evening. So that first hour to get to Buriton definitely felt like a bit of a trudge.

It was nice to pass through Buriton again though, it's quite a pretty village, and thanks to a tip off about one footpath underneath the railway being closed, I took a slight detour by way of the pond, down a little country lane leading out of the village, under the railway, and through Appleton's Copse, where there were some signs of a former chalk mine. That was all pleasant enough.

So it wasn't until an hour and twenty minutes into my walk - probably about 4 miles - that I saw my first South Downs Way route marker of the day... and then I almost immediately left the South Downs Way again. Here the South Downs Way passes through the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, and takes an oddly indirect route. I had the sense when planning today's walk that anywhere called a "country park" would not comprise the sort of countryside I really like, so decided it best to just take the shortest route through that I could. I was right - it was rather bland, managed woodland, probably fun for mountain bikers (who had some dedicated slalom type runs) but not very interesting as a walker.

Unfortunately the A3 forms a major obstacle here, and what I really would have liked to do is head almost due West from Buriton, and skip the country park altogether, but alas the only crossing of the A3 require heading a fair way South, before then having to head back North again the other side.

The other side of the A3 things did start to improve a bit - a reasonably steep climb up Butser Hill, albeit still very close to the A3, felt a bit more like the wide open countryside I'd come to love along the nicer parts of the South Downs Way. From the top I could see all the way to the sea.

Slightly disappointingly after this the path followed a road for a bit - but it was at least not a very busy one, along a ridge, with reasonable views either side.

It was around this point that I started to weigh up my options for where I should aim to end today's walk. I'd originally thought I might try to get as far as Exton, which would probably have been about a five hour walk in total, but there didn't seem to be much in the way of public transport from there - as far as I could tell no buses run from there to Petersfield on a Saturday. Another option was West Meon, which was almost as far, but at least had buses. The easiest option was to aim for East Meon, also reasonably well served by buses, and the closest of the three villages.

Given a combination of the dreary weather, the long trudge at the start to get out of Petersfield as well as the dull bit going through the Queen Elizabeth Country Park (not to mention the fact I was a bit hungover and also now starting to get quite hungry) I was just not really enjoying the walk today as much as I had some of the previous outings. So I decided to cut my losses, and plumped for the cop out - I would head for East Meon. It would also mean I could get back to London with some of the afternoon still remaining, and spend some time with Chie and Erika, who I felt I'd been neglecting a bit having stayed overnight in Petersfield.

So at Hyden Hill, I said goodbye once more to the South Downs Way, and headed down the hill towards East Meon. I felt emboldened in my choice given that this took me past the source of the river Meon, which felt like a point of interest I might not have seen otherwise. Close to the source little ponds had formed with crystal clear water, and what I almost certainly incorrectly assumed to be wild watercress. Then through farmland, until I eventually reached East Meon, just before midday.

East Meon is a very pretty little village, with an interesting mixture of architectural styles - some thatch, some exposed timerframe, some rendered, some tile clad, some bare brick, and some download stone cladding. A bit of everything. The village has a church, the spire of which I had seen from atop Hyden Hill, two pubs, and a village shop (which I heard some of the locals complaining about later when I was waiting for the bus). I poked my nose in at the shop hoping I might find a souvenir or some interesting local produce, but it seemed to be a Happy Shopper, stuck in a 1980s timewarp, with a lot of half empty shelves, and rather depressing. I can see why the locals were a bit unhappy with it.

I took to surveying the two pubs, to choose where to have lunch. Ye Old George Inn looked a bit gentrified from the outside. Not really my sort of thing. The Izaak Walton seemed to be much more the locals pub, and was a bit basic on the inside - alas not in a charming rustic way. Still, I chose there for lunch, and was glad of the hearty unpretentious vegetable lasagne of the type you only really get in pubs.

Just before 1pm I got the bus (perfectly on time) back to Petersfield. The bus went past the hotel where I'd stayed the previous night on the way into town, and I found it slightly disheartening that thanks to the almost U shaped route I'd taken, my four hours of walking this morning had only actually transported me about 4 miles as the crow flies, and it was all undone with a 15 minute bus journey.

I managed to hop on a train almost immediately at Petersfield station, and was back in London by 2:30.
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The Harrow Inn
[Friday 11th January 2019]
I had still been mulling over whether I might be able to get to a proper rural wassail somewhere this weekend, and was considering one which would be on Saturday night in Herefordshire, but eventually decided against it as it's just such a big undertaking getting to remote parts of Herefordshire, and I also felt bad for abandoning Chie and Erika for most of the weekend.

As it turned out the girls had plans to visit friends this evening, and also Erika was going to a trial music lesson tomorrow morning, so it occurred to me the ideal window for some sort of jaunt involving an overnight stay would be tonight rather than Saturday night. Thus the original idea of going to a wassail morphed into continuing my fragmented journey along the South Downs Way, with an overnight stay in Petersfield which would have the twin benefits of giving me an early start on the walk the next morning, and affording me the opportunity to return to the wonderful Harrow Inn, which I had fallen in love with when visiting for the first time in February last year.

So I clocked off from work a bit early (it was a Friday after all), got the tube to Waterloo, and from there got the train down to Petersfield.

On arrival in Petersfield it occurred to me that the mile (ish) long walk from the station to the pub, which is just beyond the outskirts of town, was going to be ever so slightly challenging as it was really quite dark, and the latter half of the walk was down an entirely unlit country lane. I did eventually have to resort to using my phone as a torch for some sections, as I managed to trip on potholes a couple of times. I suppose this added to the sense of adventure of getting there.

On arrival at the pub, about 6:20, it was packed! By which I mean there about a dozen people in there, which is enough to fill the main bar room. I found myself a little bit of space in the corner, and very happily settled in with a pint and a packet of crisps.

After a while I got talking to one group of people there, in particular a very nice chap called Phil, who, as it turned out, shared some common interests. He and his group of friends had an ongoing mission to seek out very special unspoilt pubs like the Harrow, and travel round the country looking for them. They have a list they share between themselves, and I was impressed that as I reeled off all the pubs I could think of that might be on such a list they seemed to know almost all of them. Having hopefully therefore proved my credentials as a fellow connoisseur Phil took my email address and offered to send me this much coveted document.

It was a delight to be in these wonderful surroundings, talking about old pubs, morris dancing, and other related topics. After the first beer I moved on to the local cider they have at the Harrow (Herons Crest I think), which was particularly good to accompany one of their excellent Ploughman's lunches (yes I know it was dinner time). I was in heaven.

Gradually the initial throngs dwindled, and eventually a bit before 9 I had the pub to myself. This was also quite lovely, and I took the opportunity to take a few photos, having not wanted to spoil the atmosphere for the other customers earlier on. I also spent a while admiring all the fixtures and fittings, and in particular spotted some prints of the Harrow on the wall for sale. I bought them both.

Eventually I decided I should probably call it a night, aware that part of the point of coming to Petersfield tonight was to get an early start on my walk the next morning.

So, back down the dark country lane, and, as it turned out, more dark country lanes and footpaths around the outskirts of Petersfield to get to my hotel, which was slightly out of town.

Partly because of the appeal of the facelessness of being able to book online, and partly because of uncharacteristic recent outburst of frugality, I'd decided to stay at the Premier Inn. This incredibly bland, banal, modern, chain hotel experience was of course a bit of a jolt after the magic of the Harrow Inn, but at least I had my prints with me to try and brighten up my room a bit.
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Vinegrowing Course Day 2
[Monday 7th January 2019]
Second day of my vinegrowing course. Following the extremely early start I'd had for the first day of the course, including allowing an hour to walk from Haywards Heath to Scaynes Hill, I decided to give myself a bit longer in bed today, and hoped I'd be able to get a taxi from Haywards Heath. This proved easy enough, I just hadn't seen the taxi rank first time round as I'd left the station from a different exit.

The morning theory session was the first with Chris, the course leader, rather than Greg who had stood in for him the first time. This morning we covered two topics - first was selecting vine varieties. This comes down to determining how well adapted a given vine is to the climate / local disease risks / soil conditions, possible legislative considerations, plus the economic considerations - not least does anybody actually want to buy a wine made of that grape? We then went over cloning and hybridisation.

The second topic was winter pruning, the goal of which is to maximise the yield and quality (i.e. ripeness) of the fruit, while also keeping the vines as accessible as possible to both people and machines. Plumpton's Rock Lodge vineyard, being there partly for education and research purposes, has some vines which have deliberately been left unpruned, to demonstrate what an unmanageable jungle they end up as (and if I recall correctly Chris also said the resulting fruit was not worth using). There are a number of different pruning schemes, however it seems in the UK at least "Guyot" has become fairly dominant, with Cordon pruning also being used in some cases. Both relied on a notion of calculating "charge" - how many ideal shoots each vine on average grew last year, and leaving roughly that many buds on the vine, either from a single cane, or from two canes depending on whether you were adhering to single or double Guyot. There was also the business of a spur, to provide growth for the following year, and that seemed to be the bit which was often most difficult to identify.

In the afternoon practical session, out in the vineyard, we continued on that theme of pruning, mainly focusing on Guyot. Tom, who runs the afternoon sessions as of today, started by going back over the theory again in the vineyard's shed, then took us out to the vines to demonstrate some examples, and finally let us all loose in pairs with secateurs to have a go ourselves. This part was a little unnerving - with somebody else's vines, and of course you can't exactly stick the wood back on if you cut off the wrong bit. I suppose that's all part and parcel of having a vineyard for teaching purposes though. The difficulty came in that the theory just describes the ideal case, often you're at the mercy of whatever state the vine was left in by last year's pruning (quite possibly also performed by students like us!), and it wasn't always easy to go from there to where the vine ideally ought to be. In particular spur selection was often tricky, given the requirement for this to be lower than the cane, pointing in the right direction, below the fruiting wire and so on. I assume this is something which just gets easier with practice!
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Twelfth Night
[Sunday 6th January 2019]
Cleared the Christmas tree away in the morning, then went to the Bankside Wassail in the afternoon.
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Veggie Karaage
[Saturday 5th January 2019]
Chie made the vegetarian version of karaage (Japanese fried chicken) for dinner.
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Highgate
[Friday 4th January 2019]
Walked across Hampstead Heath and had lunch at the Flask in Highgate.
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Shakesperience
[Thursday 3rd January 2019]
Went to see Shakesperience in Leicester Square.
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Wahaca and Plunger
[Wednesday 2nd January 2019]
Took Erika to Wahaca for lunch. Then bought a plunger.
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New Year's Day
[Tuesday 1st January 2019]
Erika's cousins came to visit us in London.
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Cocking to Petersfield
[Monday 31st December 2018]
I was pleased to discover I'd have the opportunity to fit in one last walk along the South Downs Way before the end of the year, as Chie and Erika had planned to go visit friends in the daytime, so I was left to my own devices for the day.

I actually made a relatively early start this morning, managed to leave home around 8:30, and was at Waterloo station by 9, with a full half hour to buy tickets, and also procure breakfast and lunch, before the 9:30 train to Haslemere.

Following some fairly lengthy research into the logistics of how best to get to and from the next section of the South Downs Way, I eventually decided it would be best to get the bus from Haslemere down to Midhurst, then a second bus from there to just South of Cocking, where the South Downs Way crossed the road. This meant buying the rather grandiosely named "Gold AD Dayrider" ticket, which I believe allowed me unlimited usage of buses in the Stagecoach network for the day, for the sum of £8.60.

This did actually mean I'd end up skipping a short section between Graffham and Cocking, a couple of miles perhaps. As there seemed to be no easy way to get back to Graffham by public transport, and not wanting to rely on the vagaries of taxis in rural areas, plus the fact I had fairly limited daylight hours again, I decided to just write that off.

Despite my comparatively early start, the tube, train, and two buses to get to the starting point of the walk meant it was about 11:20 when I was finally underway. I'd planned to walk to Petersfield, and that should apparently take 4 to 4 and a half hours, so there was just about enough daylight to achieve this from that point on.

The weather was a bit uninspiring today, although I suppose for the time of year it could have been worse - it wasn't extremely cold, nor did it rain, it was just unrelentingly grey, which rather subdued all the views along the route. As you can probably see in the pictures everything looked a bit colourless and washed out today, and that never really abated at any point. Regardless, I was still happy to be in the great outdoors, enjoying the freedom of another walk along the South Downs, even if it didn't have quite the same aesthetic appeal I have seen on other walks earlier this year.

Like the previous section, much of this walk was again through a distinctly agricultural landscape, and that was certainly the case for most of the first hour. However, in patches it did break out of this mould. An hour into the walk I arrived at the Devils Jumps, a series of Bronze Age burial mounds. This was the first time I'd really encountered such a notable sign of ancient civilisation along the South Downs Way (or at least the first time I'd really noticed one) - I'm sure the South Downs must have plenty, perhaps the path just doesn't happen to pass directly by so many.

Earlier I had overheard a couple in Marks and Spencer in Waterloo station discussing whether or not to take advantage of the "meal deal". I seem to be struggling to enunciate why exactly, but I found this really depressing, and somehow emblematic of the fact that we as a civilisation have completely no idea who we are any more.

Being now alone amidst the remnants of a society from several millenia ago felt very poignant. The contrast seemed very stark, and it was hard to imagine the day-to-day decisions made by those buried here were ever so trivial.

A short while later, I had a slightly odd encounter, which to some extent dovetails with the pondering of times past provoked by the Devil's Jumps. It is of course common when out walking to encounter other walkers, and as appears to be the etiquette a brief greeting is exchanged, but, in my experience, it's extremely rare for any further discourse to ensue.

So I was slightly surprised, a little after passing Buriton Farm, when I said a cursory hello to a man stood on the path, and rather than a similar cursory greeting, he replied "What do you look like?".

I was a little taken off guard by this, but assuming he was referring to the tweed suit I like to wear this time of year whilst walking out in the countryside, I attempted to make light of the situation by saying "It's tweed, surely everyone in the country wears tweed?".

It's a useful lesson in a situation such as this, in the opening gambit with a complete stranger, to remember that senses of humour are finely tuned engines which need to be calibrated over time. For them to be compatible relies on shared understanding. My jovial remark relied on the assumption that it would be understood I was, for comic effect, adopting the persona of a naive city dweller, with a completely unrealistic image of life in the countryside. I thought I had added sufficient hamminess to my delivery of this statement so as to make the humorous intent clear, but apparently not.

"Nobody wears tweed.", he replied, rather factually. I decided against pointing out that that wasn't in fact true, given the clear evidence he was currently looking at.

Attempting to rationalise, he asked "Did you go to public school?".

"No." I replied, ever so slightly offended by the social profiling that I was apparently now being subjected to, when all I wanted to do was go out for a walk.

"You look like something from a hundred years ago!", he continued to opine. This seemed like safer territory, we had transitioned from an apparent accusation of elite status to a presumed attempt to categorise me under the vintage clothes umbrella. Although as it happens I don't actually own many vintage clothes, and the particular tweed suit I was wearing was modern.

"A happier time, in many ways.", I replied, and given the look on his face in response almost immediately regretted it. Obviously, by just about any objective quality of life metric this would be an extremely hard stance to defend, but I was still thinking about the meal deal at Marks and Spencer. A moment of mental arithmetic later I recalled that a hundred years ago was in fact the end of the First World War.

I attempted to steer the focus away from this, and instead pointed out that I just have no truck with modern synthetic fabrics. He then pointed out that he can't actually wear wool, because it irritates his skin. I suppose at this juncture we had just agreed to disagree, and he concluded our dialogue with the amusingly sentiment free: "Well all I can say is you look extraordinary.", and we went our separate ways.

A short while later I passed another couple, who just said he cursory hello as usual.

Around 1pm I reached the top of "Beacon Hill", which must be the most oversubscribed name for a hill in English. This particular Beacon Hill had nice views of the surrounding landscape, as I'm sure many of its namesakes also do, and so I decided to pause here for lunch. To eat the sandwich I had bought earlier from Marks and Spencer. Which, I hasten to add, I had not purchased as part of the meal deal.

My peace and quiet was interrupted by a large family group who, I got the impression, lived locally, and were here as part of a New Year's Eve tradition to walk up to the top of this particular hill. I was a bit envious. They were taking group photos by the trig point - I offered to take one for them so they could all be in it, then I continued on my way.

A short while later there was another nice viewpoint, near the car park for Harting Downs, but I chose not to linger - the weather was still a bit too underwhelming to persuade me to do otherwise. After the car park the South Downs Way crossed over the road, and the terrain changed from the open hilltops of the last couple of miles, to a pleasant wooded hillside.

This then opened out into a series of lanes and tracks until it came time for me to leave the South Downs Way for today's walk, and head into Buriton.

I had been to Buriton with Chie once before, back in 2010. It was on a recommendation from Dad for nice old pubs he knew in Hampshire (and indeed somewhere on today's route I had crossed over the border from West Sussex into Hampshire). Although today's visit was very brief - just time for one very quick pint - I am pleased to report it is still very much unspoilt.

I would have liked to stay a bit longer, but was aiming for a particular train back to London from Petersfield, and still had another 2.5 miles or so to go to get there. On our previous visit, in the absence of an Ordnance Survey Map, we had followed the road from Petersfield to Buriton, but I spotted on the map ahead of today's walk there was an alternative path - Hangers Way - through the fields, and thought that would probably be a bit more pleasant.

On arrival in Petersfield I went to the General Wine Company, very conveniently located near the station, as I had done earlier this year when I'd come to the area with friends to visit the Harrow Inn. I picked up a couple of bottles of local English sparkling wine - Upperton and Hambledon.

Had a pleasant train journey back to London, having effectively a small private compartment on the train, and was back at home by 6.
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Winter Wonderland
[Sunday 30th December 2018]
Took Erika to Winter Wonderland.
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Bec and Jessica
[Saturday 29th December 2018]
Bec and Jessica came over to Bristol to spend the day with us today, we went to We The Curious (Bristol's science museum) and then later on back to the Christmas fair for a bit. Towards the end of the afternoon we got the train back to London.
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Abergavenny
[Friday 28th December 2018]
Picked up a Zipcar and drove to Abergavenny in the daytime to see Vera and Robin, picking up Louise on the way. In the evening went for a swim then dinner at San Carlo back in Bristol.
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Thursday in Bristol
[Thursday 27th December 2018]
Got the train to Bristol in the morning, lunch at Stable (cider, pies and pizza), a bit of shopping in the afternoon, then Caribbean food for dinner followed by an evening visit to the little Christmas fair near our hotel.
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Boxing Day at the Zoo
[Wednesday 26th December 2018]
Went to the zoo in the daytime.
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Christmas Day
[Tuesday 25th December 2018]
Presents in the morning, a rather unsuccessful visit to the Pineapple in the afternoon, then Christmas dinner and a home made yule log in the evening.
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Christmas Eve
[Monday 24th December 2018]
Went down to Belgravia / Chelsea in the daytime, mainly because we wanted to try to buy a new fridge in Peter Jones, but while we were in the area had lunch at Olivocarne.
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Christmas Party
[Sunday 23rd December 2018]
Had Christmas drinks for local friends this afternoon.
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South Downs Way: Amberley to Graffham
[Saturday 22nd December 2018]
I wasn't entirely expecting to have the opportunity for a walk today, but I discovered over breakfast that Chie and Erika had plans to meet friends from Japan in the daytime, and as the weather was surprisingly nice for the time of year I thought I should make hay while the iron's hot so to speak. So it was perhaps a later start than was ideal, which matters particularly this time of year in terms of daylight hours, today being the day after the shortest day. Anyway it still seemed worthwhile making a go of it, and I was on the 10:36 train from Victoria down to Amberley to pick up where I left off last time.

Given that I only had at best 4 hours of daylight from arrival, I decided there was no time to squander on such fripperies as lunch, so I had eaten a pasty on the train prior to arrival, and once I got to Amberley at midday I purposefully set off on my walk. Thankfully the South Downs Way passes by the station here, so in a matter of minutes I was on it, and in open countryside.

The first section was actually familiar, given that I'd walked a little bit of the South Downs Way with friends two years ago when we came down to Amberley for a festive lunch at the Bridge Inn. That day there had been thick fog though, so we
didn't really have much sense at the time of being amidst the South Downs. Compared to today's glorious blue skies and surprisingly mild temperature for the time of year the surroundings were barely recognisable.

That familiar section only lasted the first 15 minutes or so though, and after that I was venturing into pastures new. Not long after that first fairly flat section I started to head up a hill, with corresponding wonderful views of the surrounding landscape.

Today's walk was a less "wild" section than some previous parts of the South Downs Way - the path was flanked on one side or the other (often both) by farmed fields pretty much the whole way, although apart from one farm where I crossed a road I didn't pass through any human habitation for the whole route in between Amberley and Graffham. The views were pretty much uninterrupted throughout, enhanced by clear winter skies.

It was also the most mud I had encountered to date on my journey along the South Downs over the course of the past few months. In the summer the ground had been baked hard by the heatwave in July and early August. It must not have been a particularly wet Autumn as this distinctive grey downland mud, born of the chalky soils, was something of a novelty today.

I was a little unsure where to end today's walk. I'd originally considered trying to get as far as Cocking, from where I might hopefully be able to get a bus into Midhurst, and from there to Pulborough, but getting to Cocking was apparently going to take in excess of four hours of walking, and having only started at midday it would be dark before I got there. The original compromise I'd come up with had been to walk as far as Upwaltham, where there appeared to be some kind of bus service (the 99 between Petworth and Chichester) - but it sounded a bit of an odd system, you had to prebook at most stops, so when I got to the bus stop where the South Downs Way crossed the A285 I decided to just press on, and try my luck at Graffham instead.

So I continued for a while longer after crossing the A285, for a distinctly muddy section up Littleton Down which offered nice views back towards some of the rolling hills I'd been walking over earlier on. It was just after 2pm by this point, but already the winter sun seemed to be hanging a little low in the sky.

Just after 2:30 I got to the point where I'd be leaving the South Downs Way for today, to follow a footpath down the hill into Graffham. This turned out to be quite a steep descent, through a wooded hillside, and made for an interesting bit of variety from the hilltops I'd mostly been walking on this afternoon.

The entry into Graffham reminded me of arriving in Kingston near Lewes - a track eventually turned into a street, and one of the first buildings I saw was the rather picturesque church. Part of the reason I wanted to come to Graffham today is that I'd found on the web that there's a holiday cottage next to the church, which looked rather nice, so I thought it would be good to come and take a look with a view to possibly staying there a couple of nights in the New Year for the next section of the walk. Graffham was a pretty little village, particularly the older parts near the church.

With my mind still on how I was actually going to get home, I decided the best strategy might be to aim for the village pub in Graffham - the White Horse - and see if they had any recommendations for local taxi firms etc.

On arrival at the White Horse I was surprised by a couple of things - first there were electric car charging points outside - not what I expected from a country pub in a tiny village filled with quaint old cottages - and secondly inside the pub were lots of other people wearing tweed! Normally I expect to be the only one, but I think they'd all been on a pheasant shoot or something.

Anyway, my instinct proved correct, and I was indeed able to call a taxi from here to get me back to Pulborough station, with enough time for a pint first.

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Forntum and Mason and St John
[Thursday 20th December 2018]
Lunch at Fortnum and Mason to meet Kyle and Hannah's new baby, and dinner with the girls at St John in the evening.
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Carol Concert and Holborn
[Wednesday 19th December 2018]
Lunch at the Pineapple, Erika's carol concert in the afternoon, then in the evening drinks and dinner around Holborn with the usual suspects.
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City of London
[Sunday 16th December 2018]
Went to Shikumen for lunch, then had a wander around the City of London, and went to see the Mithraeum exhibit.
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Saturday
[Saturday 15th December 2018]
Took Erika to Bear and Wolf for breakfast in the morning. Chie and Erika went off to a party for most of the rest of the daytime, while I mooched around at home as the weather was too miserable to go out for a walk.
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Primrose Hill with Ricardo
[Friday 14th December 2018]
In the past few weeks I seem to have developed a constant urge to be outdoors - I think as some combination of my new found love of walking and possibly as a reaction to spending so much time working from home. Unfortunately this time of year isn't particularly conducive to that, both in terms of the weather and the amount of daylight.

To that end today I decided to finish work early, and arranged to meet Ricardo to see if we might catch the last few rays of the day's sunlight from the top of Primrose Hill, with a bottle from the mixed case of English sparkling wines I hadn't tried before that I'd recently ordered. Today I decided to try the Hindleap Blanc de Blancs, from Bluebell Vineyard in Sussex, actually not that far away from the Plumpton College vineyard where my vinegrowing course take place. I thought this was pretty good, and while probably better suited to a summer's day, the 4 degree air temperature did help to keep it chilled!

Although we pretty much missed most of the sunset by the time we arrived, the views from Primrose Hill at dusk as London was lighting up made for a very nice backdrop.

Once the wine ran out and we were starting to get cold, we retired to a nearby pub - the Landsdowne - chosen primarily because it was close by looked warm inside. This turned out to be quite a convivial sort of a place, and we got talking to some neuroscientists from UCL, presumably having their Christmas party here.

After that we slightly oddly went to do some late evening shopping at Morrisons (Ricardo wanted to buy some batteries and some cheese) and then rounded the evening off with a deep fried pizza at Rossompodoro.
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Christmas Party
[Thursday 13th December 2018]
Actually went to the office Christmas party this year. It was terrible. Only stayed a short while and instead went to the Captain Kidd and a nearby Italian restaurant.
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