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:
- Aperitivo Hour In Winter
Sunday in Devon
Saturday in Devon
Rudy's Dirty Vegan Diner
Drinks with Al
Vinegrowing Course Day 1
Mum in London
Fortnum and Mason and Xu Teahouse
Delaunay and New Tweed Suit
Southampton Arms and Hampstead Heath
Andrew's Leaving Drinks
Korova and Rochester Square
Washington to Amberley
Devil's Dyke to Washington
Lisbon to London
Cafes and Beach
Cabo da Roca and Sintra
Castelo de Sao Jorge and Bellem
Wandering around Lisbon
London to Lisbon
Chie Back From Japan
Bear and Wolf and Swimming
Air Quality Monitor
Dimsum and Regents Park
Breaky Bottom Harvest
Boot and Flogger and Lewes
Negroni and Crisps
Ice Cream and Wahaca
Hassocks to the Devil's Dyke
Cleaning and Pizza
Jeremy and Anne's Wedding
Lunch at the Pineapple
Lewes to Hassocks
Zoo and Wahaca
Buffalo Wings, Refractometer and Sabrage
Food and Wine
Wye to Charing
Deptford, Brockley and Refractometer
Playmobil Beekeeper and Rainbow Science Kit
Erika's Birthday Party
First Apple from the Tree
L'Orangerie Liqeur and The English Country Inn
Monaco to London
Monday in Monaco
Sunday on the Cote d'Azur
Flying to Nice
Bank Holiday Monday
Dentist and Olivocarne
Cartoon Festival at Jewish Museum
Zoo and Takoyaki
The Girls are Back
Kyle and Al
Lunch in Portsmouth
Vera's Birthday Dinner
No Building Work Today
Second Day of Building Works
- Aperitivo Hour In Winter
- [Friday 30th November 2018]
Was determined to have an early evening drink out in the garden, even though it was dark (and also a bit cold) - I perservered for a short while with the aid of some candles.
- Brasserie Zedel
- [Thursday 29th November 2018]
Took Erika for dinner at Brasserie Zedel. It was a lovely evening.
- ESW Again
- [Wednesday 28th November 2018]
Tried the Plumpton ESW this evening.
- [Tuesday 27th November 2018]
Received two cases of English Sparkling Wine today.
- Kings Cross
- [Monday 26th November 2018]
Some random photos of Kings Cross.
- Sunday in Devon
- [Sunday 25th November 2018]
Morning and early afternoon at Dad's new house in Devon (with a quick pre-lunch foray to the Anchor at Cockwood) before getting the train back to London.
- Saturday in Devon
- [Saturday 24th November 2018]
Took a morning train to Exeter and spent the remainder of the day inspecting the results of the refurbishment work of Dad's new house.
- Rudy's Dirty Vegan Diner
- [Friday 23rd November 2018]
Tried another vegan eatery for lunch (rather lazily had it delivered). It was not great.
- Night Sight
- [Thursday 22nd November 2018]
Some random photos trying out the new night sight mode on my phone's camera.
- Drinks with Al
- [Tuesday 20th November 2018]
An evening out with Al. Made a second attempt to try the new vermouth bar in Coal Drops Yard, and it was actually open this time.
- Vinegrowing Course Day 1
- [Monday 19th November 2018]
First day of my vinegrowing course at Plumpton College
- Mum in London
- [Sunday 18th November 2018]
Mum stayed with us last night after babysitting Erika, so we had some time with her today.
- Fortnum and Mason and Xu Teahouse
- [Saturday 17th November 2018]
Took Erika to a friend's party in the afternoon, and while it was on Chie and I took a stroll acoss Hampstead Heath to the Holly Bush.
In the evening Mum came to babysit Erika, Chie and I went out for the evening as a sort of early/late wedding anniversary celebration (depending on which wedding anniversary we're referring to here) - started with a drink in the wine bar at Fortnum and Mason, then went to try out Xu Teahouse for dinner.
- [Friday 16th November 2018]
Tried the vegan fish and chips at The Vine in Kentish Town.
- Delaunay and New Tweed Suit
- [Wednesday 14th November 2018]
Went to pick up one of my new tweed suits, and had lunch at the Delaunay.
- [Tuesday 13th November 2018]
Chie and I went to Woodlands for lunch.
- Southampton Arms and Hampstead Heath
- [Sunday 11th November 2018]
Had lunch Iunch of sorts at the Southampton Arms, then went for a walk on the heath.
- [Saturday 10th November 2018]
Had a lovely morning to myself, breakfast at Andrews Restaurant followed by shopping for new tweed suits. Met up with Erika and Chie for lunch at Franco Manca then spent the remainder of the day in and around home.
- School Disco
- [Thursday 8th November 2018]
Erika's school disco this evening.
- Andrew's Leaving Drinks
- [Wednesday 7th November 2018]
Leaving drinks for Andrew who would be spending the next few months in the Far East then Australia.
- Korova and Rochester Square
- [Sunday 4th November 2018]
Had "brunch" (despite some protestation on my part) at Korova near Tufnell Park, then later on went to a community bonfire night event in Rochester Square.
- Washington to Amberley
- [Saturday 3rd November 2018]
Chie and Erika had another party to go today, so I headed down to the South Downs once again for the sixth instalment of my bit-by-bit walk along the South Downs Way. This time I started where I had left off last time - Washington (so a train to Pulborough followed by a bus from there) to Amberley, which was the next train station along the route. This made for a relatively short walk, just over 6 miles, only a couple of hours of walking, but I'm a bit constrained by where there's public transport available.
On my previous walk I'd only seen a bit of Washington, pretty much just a (closed) pub and a bus stop, but today I got to see what I assume to be some of the older parts of the village, and it was actually quite nice. After getting off the bus around midday the first bit of my walk passed some pretty houses along a quiet back street leading to the church. I can see why Hilaire Belloc liked it here. I then crossed over the A24 on a footbridge, a much easier crossing with this northern option for this section of the South Downs Way, and passed through a bit of woodland, followed by a steepish climb before joining back up with the normal route of the South Downs Way having reached an altitude of 200 metres, which seems to be typical cruising altitude for many of the ridges along which the route follows. Lovely sprawling views from here on, which pretty much remained the case for the rest of today's walk.
Very nice weather today, sunny but not too hot for tweed, a bit of a breeze at times but nothing too serious.
Not really much else to say about the walk - it was just delightful for pretty much the whole way, although I was starting to get quite peckish by 1pm, and slightly wish I'd brought more along to eat with me than a bag of Jelly Tots.
I arrived at the Bridge Inn, Amberley, at just after 2pm, and hungrily devoured one of their halloumi burgers and a pint or two of Harverys. I then got the 3:15pm ish train back to London.
- [Friday 2nd November 2018]
Chie was working in the afternoon, so I picked Erika up from school. We initially headed for the playground but somehow en route decided to go to the Pineapple instead. Was nice to have an end-of-the-working-week drink and debriefing with Erika.
With it being Bonfire Night weekend I thought I ought to make some sort of effort on that front, although Erika isn't actually particularly keen on fireworks. I suggested to Erika that we could go to a child friendly timed fireworks event in Corams Fields this evening, but she didn't seem keen. So instead I surveyed our local shops to see if they might have any modest fireworks suitable for our little garden, and it seems none of them had any at all save for packets of sparklers. That probably was the best bet anyway, so I got a couple of packets of these, and we stood out in the back garden for a bit with them.
For dinner I made a mushroom risotto and some stuffed courgettes. I think I may have just gone off risotto, as I was pretty underwhelmed with the former dish, but the latter wasn't bad.
- [Thursday 1st November 2018]
Chie and I went to Diwana on Drummond Street for lunch today, haven't been for quite a while.
- [Wednesday 31st October 2018]
Took Erika out trick or treating, something she had been very excited about for the past few days. I have to say I thought people in the neighbourhood seemed to make a bit less effort than the year before, and there wasn't quite the same buzz in terms of number of decorated houses or people taking part in general. Still Erika seemed to enjoy herself regardless.
After we finished trick or treating we had a late dinner back at home, with the lights off and candles lit for atmosphere. Then after Erika's bed time I went to meet Ricardo in Little Venice for a decidedly non Halloween themed remainder of the evening, with a few pints at one of his local pubs.
- [Sunday 28th October 2018]
Another day which lacked planning. My original suggestion of heading out into the countryside for lunch at a country pub met with the compromise of a stroll across Hampstead Heath and lunch at one of the pubs around there. At Erika's insistence that then was further revised to lunch at the Assembly House in Kentish Town (not particularly close to Hampstead Heath), and ultimately the stroll across the heath was abandoned when Erika met up with a friend, and went to her place to carve pumpkins. I initially set out to the heath regardless, then was thwarted by a sudden downpour, and some amount of lethargy.
- Xi'an Cuisine
- [Saturday 27th October 2018]
We didn't really know what we wanted to do with ourselves today, so in the absence of any other plan I decided we should go and try another Xi'an cuisine restaurant, this time Xi'an Impression just off the Holloway Road.
- Devil's Dyke to Washington
- [Friday 26th October 2018]
I had spent much of the time in Lisbon thinking this is all probably very nice, but where I really wanted to be was back out on the South Downs walking. So, having booked this whole week off, I took advantage of my free time today while Chie and Erika were at a party to do exactly that, and pick up where I had left off last time.
As a slight hitch I discovered the buses from the centre of Brighton to the Devil's Dyke only run on weekends and bank holidays. So instead I had to take a taxi to get me to the starting point, but that was easy enough to arrange from Brighton station.
Having arrived last time at the Devil's Dyke on foot and almost immediately left again on the bus, I had thought I might linger a bit at the start this time to take in the views, or possibly even have lunch here on arrival, but instead I was itching to get going with the walk, so again barely stood still in this famous spot for more than a minute or two. I could enjoy the views while I was walking.
The "throngs" of people around the Devil's Dyke itself quickly seem to dissipate, and within 10 minutes or so I had a very gratifying sense of isolation and remoteness. It's a good place to start a walk in that it's already the top of the ridge - I didn't have much climbing to do on today's walk. It's a very pleasant continuum along the ridge top to Edburton Hill and then a gradual descent to the River Adur from there, with great views all along the way.
After crossing the A283 and the River Adur, I followed the South Downs Way through the tiny village of Botolphs, stopping to inspect a road side stall with an honesty box selling apples, although I didn't have the right change, and none of them looked quite good enough to persuade me to overpay, so I continued on empty handed.
Beyond Botolphs a climb, and through a particularly big and smelly pig farm, although the piglets were quite cute. A useful reminder that I have made the right choice in life in being vegetarian.
The next stretch - almost an hour - was a bit dull if I'm honest, the scenery was somehow a bit less appealing, somewhat flatter and a bit featureless.
However it improved again as I approached Chanctonbury Ring, a copse on a hilltop on the site of an old iron age fort, which apparently is known for paranormal activity, but to me just seemed a rather tranquil and picturesque spot. The late afternoon sky had a pleasing sort of depth to it around here, and the trees huddled together atop the hill helped this effect.
A little after that I descended into Washington, rather hoping I might be able to stop for a quick drink at the Frankland Arms before getting the bus to Pulborough, but was disappointed to find a note on the door saying it was closed for the forseeable future. There did appear to be some building work going on inside, so hopefully this means it is a temporary closure for refurbishment rather than a permanent loss.
So instead I just waited for the bus at the bus stop. I still managed to arrange a nice end to my afternoon's walk though - I had a bit of time in Pulborough before the next train back to London, so was able to buy a bottle of Nyetimber in the nice wine shop there, and a bag of chips from the chip shop next to the station, to recreate the lovely journey home we had after our vineyard tour at Nyetimber two years ago. Having also done something similar after visiting Nutbourne vineyard a year ago this is becoming something of a tradition!
- Lisbon to London
- [Thursday 25th October 2018]
Said our goodbyes at the apartment, then Chie, Erika and I fit in one last cafe / pastelaria - Versailles - on the way to the airport.
- Cafes and Beach
- [Wednesday 24th October 2018]
Went to a couple more cafes / pastelarias in the morning then went to the beach for the afternoon.
- Cabo da Roca and Sintra
- [Tuesday 23rd October 2018]
Fit rather a lot (maybe too much?) in today - first a visit to the Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in mainland Europe. Then Sintra - the Quinta da Regaleira and the Castelo dos Mouros. Back to Lisbon for sunset drinks by the Tagus, then dinner. Later on in the evening Leon and I visited some quirky old bars in the city.
- Castelo de Sao Jorge and Bellem
- [Monday 22nd October 2018]
Visited Lisbon's castle in the morning, lunch in a tram car themed cafe, then in the afternoon took a tuk tuk to Bellem to see the famous tower and visit the place where the pastel de nata was invented.
- Wandering around Lisbon
- [Sunday 21st October 2018]
First full day in Lisbon, spent it having a wander around the city.
- London to Lisbon
- [Saturday 20th October 2018]
Flew to Lisbon, met Leon and family at Lisbon airport, took a big taxi to our apartment, and then in the evening went for dinner at Coelho da Rocha, which was probably the best meal of the trip.
- Ricardo's Birthday
- [Friday 19th October 2018]
At the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities.
- Chie Back From Japan
- [Thursday 18th October 2018]
Chie got back from Japan today. I went to the office for a change, and went to Temple of Camden for lunch.
- Bear and Wolf and Swimming
- [Tuesday 16th October 2018]
Took Erika to Bear and Wolf for breakfast before school today, and then after school took Erika to her swimming lesson (not very successful) followed by dinner with one of her friends at our place.
- Rainy Sunday
- [Sunday 14th October 2018]
Tried Sainsbury's new "Shroomdogs" for breakfast. Surprisingly good. Met one of Erika's friends for lunch at the Pineapple, then afterwards ice cream and a playdate at our place.
- Box Hill
- [Saturday 13th October 2018]
Took Erika to Box Hill to see her cousins.
- [Thursday 11th October 2018]
Erika had some henna done at an event at school this evening.
- Air Quality Monitor
- [Wednesday 10th October 2018]
Recieved an air quality monitor for a project at Erika's school.
- Dimsum and Regents Park
- [Sunday 7th October 2018]
Dimsum at the usual place followed by a stroll through Regents Park to catch the last day of the outdoor sculpture exhibition.
- Breaky Bottom Harvest
- [Saturday 6th October 2018]
Since visiting Breaky Bottom for a vineyard tour and tasting this summer I had rather fallen in love with both the place and the wine made there. It's a magical setting, in a little hidden valley, and Peter Hall, the owner and winemaker had been such a fascinating and charming host that I'd been itching to find some reason to get back there.
Having heard that he relies on an army of volunteers for the harvest each year, I'd asked if I could come along and help out too, and was delighted to be added to the list. So having had the call to action a week or so prior, I had stayed in Lewes the night before (engineering works plus the fact it's an hour's walk from the nearest station meant there was no chance of making it for the 9:30am start otherwise), and excitedly headed down to Breaky Bottom this morning. I had woken to a rather atmospheric misty morning at my hotel in Lewes, and the mist remained throughout my journey from Lewes to the vineyard - on the short train journey to Southease, then the hour's walk from there. It was fortunate that I was already familiar with the route as visibility wasn't particularly good along the way!
I arrived actually a bit before 9:30, but there were already a few early rises out in the vineyard making a start. After a saying a quick hello to Peter, and getting some brief instructions from some old hands (some people had been coming to help with the harvest for over a decade) I set about picking grapes. The section of the vineyard we were focusing on today was, I think, all Seyval Blanc, one of the grapes Peter had started out with when he first planted here back in the 1970s. I initially found it a bit difficult to be confident I was picking sufficiently ripe grapes given the change in colour was a bit subtle at times - from green to a sort of pale golden colour - and I seemed to get conflicting advice on whether, when in doubt, I should err on the side of leaving them on the vine or picking them anyway. It was encouraged to taste the grapes if not sure, and I ate quite a few in the first hour or so while I was tuning my judgement. Peter himself said that it had been such a good year in terms of sunshine, that therefore the overall level of ripeness was so good, the odd slightly less ripe bunch wouldn't matter - and in fact some amount of acidity would be a good thing.
A couple of insights I found quite interesting. The secateurs used for grape harvest are really very sharp indeed, and you need to keep your wits about you at all times. I was naturally being very slow and careful as it was my first time, but one of the "old hands" managed to snip himself and bled rather profusely.
Also, earwigs. I would never have associated them with grape vines, but many of the bunches had an earwig or two hiding in them (they didn't even seem to be eating the grapes, as far as I could tell, just hiding among them). Every bucket ended up with at least one earwig in the bottom, and I'm sure quite a few end up in the press.
Finally, it was very illustrative of the phrase "I heard it through the grapevine" - it was encouraged that we work in pairs, with each person focusing on either side of a row of vines, and naturally then you can chat while you work. Of course, as I was meeting all these people for the first time, the chat tended to be of a more introductory "what do you do for a living?" nature rather than the scurrilous gossip that the phrase suggests, but it was gratifying to experience first hand where it came from.
It was actually quite hard work - unaccustomed as I am to real manual labour - and after four hours and dozens of buckets filled I was actually quite relieved when we were finally all called in for the harvest lunch.
Lunch provided further opportunity to chat to the other volunteers - many as previously noted who had been coming here to help with the harvest for years. It's no surprise that me and the group I visited with back in July were not the only people who had been so captivated by this place. It was also very interesting to have a brief chat with a young chap called Rob, who was currently doing a winemaking course at Plumpton College, and helping Peter out on a sort of apprenticeship basis. I was impressed by his enthusiasm, and couldn't help but be a bit envious of the position he was in, he had really landed on his feet being taken under Peter's wing, and quite possibly had a very exciting career ahead of him.
I abstained from the more generic wine served with the meal - somehow it would have felt inappropriate to drink anything else in this setting - and held out with the hope at least a glass of Breaky Bottom might be forthcoming at some point. This patience was duly rewarded at the end of the meal. Great to be able to drink it in this amazing place once again, surrounded by some of the people who would have picked some of the grapes for that particular vintage, and looking forward to the time in a few years when I'd be able to taste the 2018 vintage knowing I'd made a small contribution to its production.
It had started to rain during lunch, and although I felt a bit bad for shirking off, I was mindful of the fact it was going to be a bit of a slog getting back to London with the rail replacement bus (as well as nearly an hour's walk just to get back to Southease), and Chie was going out in the evening, so I had to get back. I said my thank yous and goodbyes and purposefully yomped out into the rain. By the time I arrived at Southease I was quite drenched, which felt pleasingly consistent with my first arrival there back in July.
The journey back was indeed a bit of a faff, after the short train from Southease to Lewes I was on the slow and rather cramped rail replacement bus to Three Bridges, which on a day like today looked particularly dreary and banal, and a world away from the rural idyll I had just left. From there, a train back to Victoria, and finally the tube home from there.
- Boot and Flogger and Lewes
- [Friday 5th October 2018]
Went to see a bit of Christian Marclay's The Clock at the Tate Modern with the usual suspects in the evening, followed by a brief visit to the Boot and Flogger before rushing off to the station to get the train down to Lewes.
- Negroni and Crisps
- [Thursday 4th October 2018]
Classic Negroni and crisps in the garden.
- Ice Cream and Wahaca
- [Wednesday 3rd October 2018]
After dinner took Erika for an ice cream then later on the Wahaca for dinner.
- [Tuesday 2nd October 2018]
Another picture of my wine in its secondary fermentation vessel after the sediment had settled a bit.
- [Monday 1st October 2018]
Did some science with Erika in the evening, and transferred my wine to its secondary fermentation vessel.
- Hassocks to the Devil's Dyke
- [Sunday 30th September 2018]
Picked up from where I had left off last Sunday - Hassocks - which happily is a nice easy station to get to, on the line to Brighton. I decided to walk to the Devil's Dyke for this next stretch, having remembered from a walk to there some years ago that there was a bus from there to the centre of Brighton.
After some back and forth on where to stop for lunch I settled on the Plough Inn at Pyecombe, as it was the only option roughly in the middle - the alternatives being Jack and Jill (too early / near the start) and the Devil's Dyke Inn (too late / near the end). Thus I had a couple of miles first before lunch, which was a pleasant enough stroll, although not quite the drama in the landscape of the later sections of today's walk. The pub turned out to be more of a restaurant inhabiting the premises of a former pub, and oddly an Italian restaurant at that. A bowl of pasta was not really what I was in the mood for at Sunday lunchtime whilst out on a stroll in the countryside, but it filled a hole I suppose.
After lunch I had to cross the A23 and get past a rather noisy horse training complex before I finally got back into the peace and tranquillity of what felt like proper South Downs terrain again. There was a hill to walk up which was a bit of a slog, but then the descent back down the other side into Saddlescombe was quite lovely, with the surrounding hills looking particularly verdant and undulating in a very pleasing fashion. I think this was probably the nicest bit of today's walk.
From Saddlescombe, back uphill again to the Devil's Dyke, there was a notable increase in the number of other people I saw out walking - there had been hardly anyone for most of the rest of today's walk.
My arrival at the top of the Devil's Dyke happened to coincide with the arrival of the bus. Mindful of the fact they were not particularly frequent I jumped straight on it, so only got a very brief glimpse of the top if the dyke, but knew I could pick up here again on the next instalment...
- Cleaning and Pizza
- [Saturday 29th September 2018]
Spent the morning cleaning the flat - the first time it had really got fully back to normal since the soundproofing work in the summer - then Erika and I went out for pizza for lunch.
- Jeremy and Anne's Wedding
- [Friday 28th September 2018]
- [Thursday 27th September 2018]
Just one picture of the sky, which seemed interesting at the time.
- Lunch at the Pineapple
- [Wednesday 26th September 2018]
Chie and I went for lunch at the Pineapple only to discover the kitchen was closed for refurbishment. So we had our lunch delivered in instead.
- [Monday 24th September 2018]
Playing with Erika in the evening.
- Lewes to Hassocks
- [Sunday 23rd September 2018]
When I did my first walk along the South Downs Way back in July, from Eastbourne to Southease, I hadn't particularly envisaged that I would eventually endeavour to complete the whole 100 miles in instalments. However after a couple of slightly underwhelming forays to the North Downs in the interim I had a definite sense of being pulled back in this direction, and by today, the third instalment (Lewes to Hassocks), it became clear I was on something of a mission to walk the whole thing, or at least the bulk of it. If nothing else it meant thinking of somewhere to go each time I want to go for a country walk became a lot easier - I just pick up where I left off the previous time.
Having done a short-ish arc around Lewes with Chie and Erika in August, today I decided to start from Lewes, and walk to Hassocks, the next station along the path. The weather forecast hadn't looked too promising, but I'd got used to walking in the rain on my various expeditions this year, so was undeterred. The climb out of Lewes was very pleasant, just a bit of drizzle here and there, which I barely noticed, and although the skies were decidedly grey I was finding it all quite exhilirating, passing some intersting sights along the route, including Lewes Prison and Tor Stables on Old Lewes race course, where it appeared there was some kind of open morning or maybe even a horse sale going on, and tweedy types were arriving in Land Rovers and swanning around with glasses of Champagne in hand at about 11am. I was tempted to try and gatecrash but I had walking to do.
By about midday, somewhere around Mount Harry, I was starting to get a tad peckish, and was glad to find a biscuit in my coat pocket, as I had no other provisions with me, and the planned pub stop was not until near the end of my walk.
Around 12:30 it started to rain with a notably greater sense of purpose. The wind also picked up, and the temperature dropped, to the point it started to feel quite unseasonably chilly. Before my first foray to the South Downs I had read that it can be subject to surprisingly extreme weather here, mainly by virtue of being so exposed on the hilltops, and this stretch around Ditchling Beacon was a good case in point - the rain had an almost icy edge to it, and this was only September.
It did eventually start to ease up some time after 1pm, and by the time I reached the Jack and Jill windmills as I started the descent into Clayton it had more or less stopped, although by this time I was quite cold and wet and felt no desire to linger for very long to admire the windmills, instead very keen to reach the (hopefully) warm welcome of the pub named after them at the bottom of the hill.
Although not too promising from the outside, the pub was exactly my sort of thing on the inside - an old pub carpet, farming paraphernalia suspended from the ceiling, hops above the bar, delightfully naff old place mats, and not a hint of Farrow and Ball paint in sight. I devoured a whole three courses of lunch very contentedly.
I then had a final 20 minute walk from there to Hassocks station, by which time the weather had changed quite dramatically, and some blue sky was evident.
Back at home in the evening I decided to harvest the grapes from the vines in the back garden, and had a rather half arsed go at beginning the process of turning them into wine.
- Zoo and Wahaca
- [Saturday 22nd September 2018]
Chie was in Paris for the day, I took Erika to the Zoo and later to Wahaca for dinner.
- Buffalo Wings, Refractometer and Sabrage
- [Friday 21st September 2018]
Buffalo Wings from Temple of Seitan for lunch. More refractometer readings and a spot of sabrage in the early evening after work.
- Food and Wine
- [Wednesday 19th September 2018]
Received a case of Breaky Bottom today. Lunch at Murger Han with Chie, then in the evening I rather lazily had a burger delivered by Deliveroo (Chie and Erika were out for dinner).
- [Tuesday 18th September 2018]
- Wye to Charing
- [Sunday 16th September 2018]
Walked another stretch of the North Downs Way today, this time Chie and Erika came along.
- Deptford, Brockley and Refractometer
- [Saturday 15th September 2018]
Went down to Brockley in the daytime, apparently the only part of London which has a shop selling winemaking equipment.Back at home later on I tried out my new refractometer.
- [Friday 14th September 2018]
Usual grape inspection.
- First Apple
- [Thursday 13th September 2018]
Had the first apple from our tree.
- Playmobil Beekeeper and Rainbow Science Kit
- [Wednesday 12th September 2018]
Erika had fun with some of the presents she received for her birthday.
- Erika's Birthday
- [Monday 10th September 2018]
Erika's actual birthday fell today. The main festivities had been the day before, but she did have plenty of presents to open this morning, then we went for dinner at Wahaca in the evening.
- Erika's Birthday Party
- [Sunday 9th September 2018]
Party for Erika's 6th birthday, with a "Wacky Science" theme.
- North Downs
- [Saturday 8th September 2018]
I was keen to keep up the momentum of my new found love of country walks, not just from the point of view of getting a bit of exercise and some fresh air, but I've also been finding these forays to be quite mentally uplifting. Of all my walks over the summer, and earlier this year, the South Downs has really stood out as being the most memorable and the most elevating (in both a literal and more spiritual sense). However, being the wrong side of London, and with the added difficulty of railway engineering works in that neck of the woods this weekend, meant getting there would have been a bit time consuming today, and I felt guilty about taking too much time out to do my own thing.
Having recently been prompted by Garry Hogg's And Far Away to take a look at some geological maps of the UK, it struck me how on some level the North Downs ought to offer some roughly similar kind of terrain, and given the high speed rail link between St Pancras and Ashford ought to be a bit more accessible.
So today I planned a walk from Sandling to Wye, both stations a short hop from Ashford. The start of the walk was on the Saxon Shore Way, then a mile or two in joining the North Downs Way for the remainder (route here in case you're interested) - apparently about 20km or 12ish miles.
It was overall a pleasant enough walk, but somehow the North Downs - or at least this stretch of it - lacked the sense of adventure and surprising feeling of remoteness of the South Downs. It may of course have partly been down to the weather - most of my walk along the South Downs had been in searing heat, beneath a brilliant blue sky, whereas today was for the large part overcast... but the landscape here in Kent doesn't give quite the same illusion of having been untouched by man - the signs of modern civilisation were never as well hidden today as they had been on that walk in July, and although I was often treated to sprawling views today somehow they never had quite the same sense of drama.
I stopped for lunch at the Tiger Inn in Stowting. Although I have no particular complaints about the food and drink (other than something a bit more traditional would have been nice), the interior does seem to have been blighted with whatever you call that shade of murky green so ubiquitous in pubs of a gastro inclination. I hope society as a whole will look back on this era with the same disdain people eventually came to see the beiges of the 1970s and wonder what were they thinking?
After lunch the walk got a bit boring in places. I had thought looking at the map that by doing the walk this way round I was saving some of the best bits until last, what with the Wye Nature Reserve in the last hour or so. Somehow though that final section turned into a bit of a trudge - maybe the weather - or maybe I was just getting tired and the novelty was wearing off.
I got to Wye just after 3pm. I had originally considered an end-of-walk pint in the Tickled Trout in Wye, but by the time I got there it was only a few minutes until the next train back to Ashford, and I decided instead I should just head back to London so I could resume parenting duties. Erika had been at a friend's birthday party in the afternoon, and I thought if I headed back at this point I'd be back home not long after she got back.
- Vegan Stuff
- [Friday 7th September 2018]
Had a vegan pizza at lunch, and made a vegan steak hache in the evening.
- First Apple from the Tree
- [Thursday 6th September 2018]
Picked the first apple of the season from our apple tree this evening. Very nice it was too (although perhaps still a tad sharp).
- L'Orangerie Liqeur and The English Country Inn
- [Wednesday 5th September 2018]
Experimented with the L'Orangerie Liqeur I bought in Monaco, and received a new (old) Garry Hogg book - The English Country Inn.
- Monaco to London
- [Tuesday 4th September 2018]
Another al fresco breakfast at our hotel before leaving Monaco in style - by helicopter - then the somewhat less exciting flight on a boring old aeroplane back from Nice airport to London.
- Monday in Monaco
- [Monday 3rd September 2018]
Started the day with an al fresco breakfast at our hotel, then went for a morning wander around Monaco, taking in the Japanese Gardens and another trip on the Bateau Bus. Lunch at the excellent pasta place in La Condamine market. After lunch visited L'Orangerie de Monaco and the National Museum before heading back to the hotel to lounge around by the beach and pool for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening we went to Il Terrazzino for dinner, where Chie and I had been on one of our first trips to Monaco, and were presented with a terrifying amount of food.
- Sunday on the Cote d'Azur
- [Sunday 2nd September 2018]
Spent the first bit of the morning in Vence before getting a taxi to Monaco. Spent some of the afternoon swimming at the hotel's beach and swimming pools and then I went for a late afternoon wander around, taking in the Bateau Bus and the Brasserie de Monaco, while the girls did more lounging at the hotel. In the evening went for dinner at our usual pizzeria on the beach.
- [Saturday 1st September 2018]
Got a taxi to Vence in the morning. Th weather just about held out long enough for us to have a wander round the town and an al fresco lunch, but from 3pm the rain started and it absolutely poured down! Just about managed a foray out to the supermarket in what was left of the afternoon. The rain eventually subsided in the early evening and we managed to get out for dinner, and had a very nice meal at what seemed to be the only Provencal restaurant in the town.
- Flying to Nice
- [Friday 31st August 2018]
Flew from Gatwick to Nice in the afternoon, and stayed for our first nice in a hotel near Nice airport.
- [Thursday 30th August 2018]
Brief drink with Tim in the pub next to Euston station as he was working in London today.
- [Wednesday 29th August 2018]
Had Erika's room redecorated today after the soundproofing work. In the evening tried the new 50 Kalo for dinner.
- [Tuesday 28th August 2018]
The usual check on the apples and grapes in the garden.
- Bank Holiday Monday
- [Monday 27th August 2018]
Didn't do much with the day off - mostly stayed close to home, frequented the local playgrounds and briefly popped into the Pineapple.
- Rainy Sunday
- [Sunday 26th August 2018]
Dim sum for lunch, then attempted to make the best of the afternoon despite the rain.
- South Downs
- [Saturday 25th August 2018]
The weather forecast for the August bank holiday didn't look particularly promising, despite talk earlier in the summer of the heatwave returning toward the end of August. Today looked like it was going to be the only reasonable day so I persuaded the girls - who didn't seem extremely keen at the prospect of an early start - to get out of the house at a vaguely reasonable hour, and we headed down to Victoria to get the train to Lewes.
There was a rail replacement bus from there to Southease, which was significantly slower than the train would have been, but by around 11:30 we were on the South Downs Way.
For today's plan, I thought it would be good to pick up where I'd left off on my trip last month. So from Southease we headed West, and my plan was to head in an arc that would eventually bring us back into Lewes.
The first couple of miles brought us tantalisingly close to Breaky Bottom, which despite being probably only half a mile away at one point remained hidden out of view in its little valley. I was tempted to make a detour so we could at least see it but was concious of the fact we'd already be having quite a late lunch with the planned pub stop, and Erika was already getting peckish.
So we pressed on. After the first mile or so of farmland - not wholly unattractive in itself - we climbed a hill (Mill Hill I think, above the farm at Cricketing Bottom), after which we remained on the hilltops for most of the walk. Highlights along the way for Erika seemed to be the occasional appearance of blackberry bushes, and also a field we passed which had some calves in it. Although perhaps a bit less wild then the section of the South Downs Way I'd walked to the East of Southease, the views from this stretch were still really nice, and the landscape all looked a bit greener than when I'd been here in July - there must have been a decent amount of rain in the intervening weeks. We could see the sea to the South, and hills for quite some distance in every other direction. The weather was, to me, perfect walking weather - around 17 degrees - the sun shone and the clouds were only ever patchy, with plenty of blue sky between.
Eventually it was time to leave the South Downs Way and descend down into Kingston near Lewes. This very steep path was quite scenic in its own right, and parts of it were lined with some particularly abundant blackberry bushes, which Erika was quite happy about. Where the path finished, the old street in Kingston began, and it's a charming little village, houses built of a mixture of brick and the local stone, and before we got to the pub we stopped briefly at a "farm shop" which was just a roadside honesty box type setup, with a surprisingly large selection of fruit and vegetables.
We arrived at the pub a bit after 2pm, which turned out to be really rather nice - named The Juggs, after the old road from Lewes to Brighton which we'd be following after lunch back into Lewes. We had a very pleasant lunch in the pub's garden, accompanied by a pint or two of the local ale (Harvey's always seems to taste so much better in the vicinity of Lewes), before then setting out once more for the remainder of the walk back to Lewes.
This was a more pleasant stretch than I had expected - I had thought after the impressive views along the South Downs Way that the Juggs Road might be a bit bland, but actually the first section at least had a windmill and a wide open meadow with more splendid views to be had.
I think I would have liked to hang around in Lewes a bit but it seemed the girls were both a bit tired and keen to head back to London, so when we got back into the town we headed straight to the station and got the first train back to London.
Still, a lovely walk and nice to have been able to share a bit of the South Downs Way with Chie and Erika!
- Dreary Friday
- [Friday 24th August 2018]
Rather a dreary Friday.
- Dentist and Olivocarne
- [Thursday 23rd August 2018]
Took Erika along to my dentist appointment, after which we had lunch at Olivocarne (Oliveto temporarily closed for a refurbishment) and then gelato at Olivogelo.
- [Wednesday 22nd August 2018]
I took the day off work and took Erika to Kidzania in Shepherd's Bush.
- [Tuesday 21st August 2018]
Went to the office again today - two days running!
- [Monday 20th August 2018]
Went to dinner at a local friends' house who had been on holiday in Spain and brought us back a bottle of vermouth.
- Cartoon Festival at Jewish Museum
- [Sunday 19th August 2018]
Went to the cartoon festival at the Jewish Museum in Camden in the afternoon.
- Zoo and Takoyaki
- [Saturday 18th August 2018]
Erika requested to go to the zoo on her first day back in London (where there was a superhero theme today), so that's what we did, followed by takoyaki in the evening with the new takoyaki / nabe device Chie bought in Japan.
- The Girls are Back
- [Friday 17th August 2018]
Chie and Erika got back from Japan today. After another intense morning / early afternoon of cleaning and trying to move all the stuff back into Erika's room I went to meet them at the airport.
- [Thursday 16th August 2018]
Soundproofing guys came back for a little bit in the afternoon to do the last few finishing touches (refit skirting boards, light fitting and power points), although no time left to have the room painted before Chie and Erika returned from Japan. Afterwards I embarked on an intense cleaning operation and started trying to put Erika's room back together.
- [Wednesday 15th August 2018]
A guy came to do the plastering after the soundproofing work today.
- Kyle and Al
- [Tuesday 14th August 2018]
Went out for a drink with Kyle and Al this evening, but neglected to take any photos.
- Soundproofing Finished
- [Monday 13th August 2018]
The main soundproofing work in Erika's bedroom was finished today. Still plastering and painting to go.
- Chapel Market
- [Sunday 12th August 2018]
Went to Chapel Market in Islington in the morning - mainly because I wanted to try a rather fine looking greasy spoon there (Alpino), but while I was there bought some ingredients from the farmer's market and later on made a rather cheffy sort of dinner with stuffed courgette flowers.
- Lunch in Portsmouth
- [Saturday 11th August 2018]
Wander around Portsmouth in the morning, then lunch with Vera and co before I headed back to London.
- Vera's Birthday Dinner
- [Friday 10th August 2018]
Got the train down to Portsmouth to join Vera and family for her birthday dinner.
- No Building Work Today
- [Thursday 9th August 2018]
Builders failed to show up today. Instead, here's some picture of the grapes in my garden.
- Second Day of Building Works
- [Wednesday 8th August 2018]
Not particularly good progress today!
- Sound Proofing
- [Tuesday 7th August 2018]
Builders came to start work on soundproofing Erika's room today. Consequently the flat was in a state of chaos.
- Moving Stuff
- [Monday 6th August 2018]
Started moving things out of Erika's room into the lounge ahead of the building work we'd be starting tomorrow.