Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
- John's Journal / Blog
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Main Index (text only)
- John's Travel
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
Saturday with Masumi-san
Bagels and Bad Weather
Harvie and Hudson Made to Measure Shirts
Zoo and Mexican
Okonomiyaki and Parliament Hill
Al and Charlotte's Wedding
The Day Before the Weddng
Ma Po Tofu and Veuve Fourny
Zoo and Tube Strike
Amsterdam and the Ferry back to England
Ghent to Antwerp to Amsterdam
Brussels and Ghent
- [Saturday 22nd August 2015]
A return visit to Folkestone, where Erika and I had bunked off to one Friday earlier in the summer, as it was a nice sunny day today, and Erika wanted to go to the beach.
- Old Friends
- [Thursday 20th August 2015]
Some old friends of Chie's were visiting the UK, so we met up for dinner this evening.
- [Wednesday 19th August 2015]
Another of our Wednesday morning trips to the zoo.
- [Tuesday 18th August 2015]
Trip to Franks (maybe the last of the summer?) to wave off a colleague who was moving to the US.
- Lego Cafe
- [Sunday 16th August 2015]
Bought Erika a Lego Cafe, which we then built in a cafe.
- Saturday with Masumi-san
- [Saturday 15th August 2015]
The Saturday of Masumi-san's 3 night stay with us - went for lunch at Ishbilia in Knightsbridge.
- Bagels and Bad Weather
- [Friday 14th August 2015]
Pretty dreary weather today for August. Montreal bagels at the office for breakfast. In the evening Negronis with Megumi-san, Chie's friend who was staying with us for a few days.
- Harvie and Hudson Made to Measure Shirts
- [Thursday 13th August 2015]
Went and ordered some made to measure shirts in the morning from Harvie and Hudson on Jermyn Street. Bottle of Gevrey Chambertin in the evening.
- Zoo and Mexican
- [Wednesday 12th August 2015]
Took Erika to the zoo in the morning, and tried Mexican food for lunch.
- Mr Kong
- [Monday 10th August 2015]
Met up with Chie and Erika on their way back from seeing Jiji Baabaa at the airport, and went for dinner at Mr. Kong.
- Okonomiyaki and Parliament Hill
- [Sunday 9th August 2015]
Chie's parents' last full day of their trip to the UK. Had okonomiyaki for lunch, then walked up Parliament Hill to take in the view.
- Al and Charlotte's Wedding
- [Saturday 8th August 2015]
I started the day with a rather delightful morning to myself. I was woken perhaps slightly earlier than I might have otherwise chosen, by a combination of the ineffectual curtains in my otherwise charming accommodation (I had rather taken to the gatehouse), and the movements of some heavy farming machinery nearby - it was harvest time after all.
Once showered, I got in my hire car and drove into Sudbury, having noticed on the way here that there was a Waitrose next to the station, and the gatehouse being entirely devoid of anything to eat or drink. It's rather a rarity for me to go to a supermarket by car, and I can't get out of the habit of only ever taking a basket rather than a trolley so I didn't end up with more than I could carry. In the case it was still a useful limiting function since I'd only be there another 24 hours, and all I really needed during that time were some breakfast things and perhaps a light snack for lunch.
I saw some rather nice sunflowers though, and thought they'd brighten up the gatehouse a bit, so bought those. Oh, and of course, a vase to put them in. I rather reminded myself of Robin, particularly when questioned by a random stranger in the aisle as to what I planned to do with the vase (which was technically a "storm lantern") and I made a comment about holiday cottages never having vases.
I didn't dwell too long in Waitrose, despite the fact I was rather enjoying myself, conscious of the fact I'd originally promised to do a bit of chauffeuring for the groom, who owing to some logistics would be carless. So I pottered back to the gatehouse, and made some tea and toast, which I sat out on the back patio eating, which was rather idyllic. Kyle and Hannah arrived whilst I was breakfasting, they were going to be staying in the other bedroom of the gatehouse tonight, and so they joined me on the terrace for a cup of tea.
Not long later it was time for me to head back to Sudbury to pick Chie up from her train, and as I hadn't heard from Al until then we decided it made sense to delegate the chauffeuring responsibilities to Kyle. By the time I returned with Chie Al had also arrived, and so, as can be seen in the pictures, Al and his two groomsmen then could polish their shoes in unison. We needn't have bothered really, since we subsequently had to walk up a rather dusty track to the church from there, and any benefit of having polished my shoes was lost within minutes of setting off for the church.
Thereafter a brief flurry of us all getting changed into our respective wedding attire, and all of a sudden it was time to head off to the church for the ceremony at 2pm.
For the ceremony at least, being best man is quite a good gig. You get to sit/stand right at the front, you feel at the centre of the action, and yet you don't really have to do anything much, other than stand up when nodded to and hand over the rings. All pretty straightforward.
The ceremony went off without a hitch (which almost sounds like a contradiction when the intention of the whole affair is getting hitched), and we were soon spilling out of the church to mill around as people do after church weddings. Then, confetti thrown, and photos taken, onwards to the reception. Although Chie and I did sneak back into the gatehouse to wolf down a Spanish omelette, having not had time to eat beforehand, and not being sure when food at the reception would be forthcoming.
There then followed more milling around in the gardens of Charlotte's parents house, which was very pleasant. It was a very nice day, and somehow (perhaps thanks to the magic undershirt) I was able to retain my composure despite the heat and wearing a three piece suit. I had one or two minor duties in the run-up to dinner, most of which were sprung on me by various other people who seemed to have a far better idea of what was going on than I did - it had not occurred to me that announcing the cutting of the cake was traditionally a best man's job, and having apparently performed that satisfactorily my services were later engaged to help shepherd people in the direction of a large group photo, and then subsequently into dinner.
Of course the big thing for me was then the best man's speech after dinner, with which my thoughts were rather preoccupied throughout the meal. I was reassured to see the mother of the bride and the groom were reading theirs from paper - although I had practiced mine quite a few times, any attempts to do it entirely from memory had not met with much success. On the other hand though both of these speeches were also very good - and funny - and I had a rather hard act to follow.
I think it actually went reasonably well in the end. I had decided not, per the apparent traditions of best mens speeches, to humiliate the groom, or to make use of any humour in poor taste. The only target of any ribbing was myself, and I chose not to take offence. It seemed to garner a few laughs, and I even went off piste a bit in a few parts.
I had been mostly abstaining from any alcohol prior to my speech, paranoid I would slur my words or just generally become woolly minded and mess it all up. Afterwards, despite it having gone quite well, I had a minor panic episode and drank 3 pints of beer in very quick succession. I then started to actually relax and really enjoyed the remainder of the wedding.
Most of the guests left some time after midnight, as all the hotels were some way away, and coaches had been laid on. It was rather nice after doing my final bet man's duties of the day - making sure everyone got onto their coaches - to then just be able to stroll a couple of minutes back to our accomodation. Kyle and I stayed up for a while, having cracked open a small bottle of Port Ellen 7th release which I'd brought with me in case Al needed some Dutch courage before the ceremony (this seemed like the sort of thing a best man should do) but he'd very responsibly declined when offered. So Kyle and I toasted Al and Charlotte in their absence. To the happy couple!
- The Day Before the Weddng
- [Friday 7th August 2015]
Being best man, I was required to travel up the day before Al and Charlotte's wedding to attend the rehearsal. Erika, Chie, and Chie's parents went off to Portsmouth for the day today, leaving me with an extra hour or two in the morning to pack, finish off my speech, print it out, and practice it a couple of times.
I got a train out of Liverpool Street around 2pm, which delivered me to Sudbury just before 3:30. From there I headed over to pick up my hire car - a Mitsubishi Outlander, the pluggable Hybrid version. It took a while to figure out how to actually get it to move, and then as I hadn't yet figured out how to use the SatNav I got a bit lost en route to Edwardstone, the little village where the wedding was to be held. So it was about 5 when I finally arrived.
I'd discovered that the gatehouse of the original Edwardstone Hall (the ceremony was in the church on the Edwardstone estate) was now rented out as a holiday cottage, and pleasingly it was still available for this weekend, so I'd chosen to stay there. The location couldn't be better - right between the church and where the reception would be held. I rather took to it straight away, it was compact but it had everything, and was full of character.
Not really sure why it was necessary for me to be present for the rehearsal, since I had so little to do at the ceremony (just stand up when nodded at by the vicar and hand over the rings) , but nonetheless it was a privilege to be there, since it was just the bridge and groom and immediate wedding party there.
After that we went over to Charlotte's parents house for dinner, for which there was a long wait as a result of Al's family being late - which I understand is a bit of a running joke.
I made my excuses and snuck out towards the end of the evening, on the pretence that I'd be going to practice my speech, whereas in fact I was really keen to poke my nose in at the village pub, the White Horse, which I'd read about and sounded excellent. It was a slightly unnerving walk there - along pitch black country lanes, but I'm glad I made the trek because it was excellent - they had an impressive selection of ciders for this part of the world, as well as a microbrewery on site, and the landlord and his wife were lovely people form Sheffield, with whom I discussed my nerves at delivering a speech the next day, and they helped to put my mind at rest.
Headed back to the gatehouse at closing time, with a takeaway box of cider for a nightcap, back along the dark country lanes, poised to dive into the hedge should a car come along.
- Ma Po Tofu and Veuve Fourny
- [Thursday 6th August 2015]
Struggled into work despite the tube strike today (first tried National Rail, that obviously wasn't going to happen so instead took the bus), then dinner back at home in the evening with Chie's parents - Ma Po Tofu rather oddly paired with a bottle of Rosť Veuve Fourny.
- Zoo and Tube Strike
- [Wednesday 5th August 2015]
Took Erika to the zoo in the morning, and we were joined there by Iain and baby Alexander.
- [Tuesday 4th August 2015]
Chie's parents babysitted Erika in the evening so Chie and I could go out to dinner. We tried out the 12 course tasting menu at HKK, a Chinese restaurant near Liverpool Street.
- [Monday 3rd August 2015]
Arrived at Harwich in the morning, got the train from there back to Liverpool Street.
Went to work for most of the daytime but had to pop back for a doctor's appointment in the afternoon.
Made tapas for dinner.
- Amsterdam and the Ferry back to England
- [Sunday 2nd August 2015]
Chie's parents went to a museum in the morning, whilst the three of us just slobbed lazily around the hotel (Erika had not been very well in the night, and after yesterday's exertions we had no real enthusiasm for sightseeing). After an unsuccessful attempt to store our bags at Amsterdam Central station (all the lockers were full), we fortunately stumbled across a Bistro a friend had recommended to us for lunch. Chie's parents went off to do a bit more sightseeing again after that, whilst we roamed rather purposelessly around Amsterdam and Erika had a nap. Left Amsterdam in the early evening, headed to Hook van Holland to get the ferry back to England, and were treated to a nice sunset as we sailed away.
- Ghent to Antwerp to Amsterdam
- [Saturday 1st August 2015]
Breakfast in Ghent, Lunch in Antwerp (including a vist to the zoo) then followed by a rather more arduous journey than we'd hoped for to finally get to Amsterdam in time for a late dinner.
- Brussels and Ghent
- [Friday 31st July 2015]
Got the Eurostar to Brussels in the morning. Did a quick bit of sightseeing, and had lunch there, before getting an afternoon train to the very picturesque town of Ghent, where we stayed the first night.