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:
Coach and Horses
Knightsbridge and Belgravia
Country Life Fair
Dimsum and the Transport Museum
Are you at work?
Leon and Japan
Lunch with Erika
- [Friday 10th October 2014]
Went to visit another nursery in the morning. In the evening Chie and Erika came along to TGIF.
- Upsatair Bars
- [Wednesday 8th October 2014]
Went to Coco Bananas, the bar upstairs at "Bunga Bunga" in Battersea, followed by Joe's Bar, the bar upstairs at Olivocarne in Belgravia.
- [Tuesday 7th October 2014]
Last night I'd somehow ended up reading about London's pie and mash shops, a subject I'm slightly fascinated by, in part because my job at the moment has got me thinking about local specialities, and I was trying to think what that would mean for London. Of course London attracts a lot of foreign tourists, many of whom seem to associate English cuisine almost exclusively with fish and chips, but I think if you asked English people that's more something they'd associate with seaside towns and/or the north of England, not something London is particularly noted for. Similarly English breakfasts - which although fine examples thereof can be found in London (I am of course thinking about the Regency Cafe) don't really seem particularly unique to the capital. Perhaps afternoon tea might be something more strongly associated with London, what with all the posh hotels here which are famous for it, but again that seemed to not quite fit the bill as it isn't really everyday food for the average person.
So that only really leaves pie and mash as something really specific to London. Whilst of course these two components could just as easily exist elsewhere, the particular style found in London's pie and mash shops is really quite specific and consistent between establishments - the "liquor" (parsley sauce), eels in one of two formats (which nobody ever seems to actually order, in my experience) and the presumably slightly more recent addition to the cuisine of chilli vinegar. Oh and the accompanying sarsaparilla to drink.
As a vegetarian, prior to discovering Manze's I'd just written this whole cuisine off as something which would never be relevant to me. I was delighted and surprised to discover they had a vegetarian pie, but also assumed it to be a one off oddity. In my reading around last night though I discovered two other pie and mash shops also offer a vegetarian pie - G Kelly in Bethnal Green, and Arments in Kennington.
So at the earliest opportunity - lunchtime today - I popped down to Kennington (really quite a trek from the office as it turned out) to sample their wares. Despite Arments celebrating their centenary this year, the interior of the shop doesn't really have much of a sense of history, but regardless it does seem to have a very loyal following, and there was a continuous stream of what I presume to be regulars while I was there. The veggie pies had to be cooked (or at least reheated) to order, and it took a while to do so, but when they finally arrived, with the accompanying mash and liquor, it made for a very satisfying lunch indeed.
- Coach and Horses
- [Sunday 5th October 2014]
Took some clothes to the recycling bank in the morning, including a pale blue Harvie and Hudson shirt which was very much an old favourite, but now had an embarrassingly frayed collar, and was really past its best.
For lunch, I was really keen to have a decent Sunday roast in a pub somewhere, and so decided to introduce Erika to the Coach and Horses in Soho. Despite its potential to be quite, um, unruly in the evenings, at lunchtime on Sundays I'd several times seen kids in there, and I think since becoming an all-vegetarian pub it has generally become a lot more relaxed. It was very quiet in there this lunchtime, perhaps a bit too quiet, and for once I think I would have actually liked a bit of piped music so that the small handful of other customers wouldn't notice Erika's babbling - she wasn't exactly yelling and screaming, but she's also not yet learnt to moderate her volume, so in a quiet environment her normal voice can actually sound a bit loud.
I ordered a roast, Chie ordered the "tofush and chips" and we also got a veggie scotch egg, and shared all three. As I still have a pathological fear of boiled eggs I just ate a bit of the coating of the scotch egg, which was quite pleasant. The "tofush" pleasingly tasted of the sea, thanks to some nori mixed in with the batter.
Did a bit of shopping after that, as we were in the centre, including a visit to the newly refurbished Foyles, the childrens section thereof being particularly nice. I had a very pleasant quarter of an hour or so in there with Erika choosing a new book for her, followed by a coffee in the cafe upstairs.
Also bought some new cocktail ingredients in Gerry's on Old Compton Street, including Nardini's Rabarbaro liqeur (as I'd tried in the rhubarb Negroni at Princi) and some orange bitters. Experimented with these in the evening.
- Knightsbridge and Belgravia
- [Saturday 4th October 2014]
It rained a lot today, so I'm impressed we managed to get out of the flat at all really.
Towards the end of the morning we decided to head out of the flat, largely with the aim of going to Waitrose. Once we arrived in Belgravia, given the rain and both of us feeling a bit tired, we wanted to go somewhere for a coffee. For some reason the usual stalwart of Tom Tom didn't appeal, and instead we pressed on to Knightsbridge where I proposed going to Chapati and Karak so Chie could try it.
It was full inside, so we sat outside under the awning where we were more or less sheltered from the rain. Perhaps that was for the best, as judging by the looks from the entirely Middle Eastern clientele inside when we initially went in they didn't seem particularly thrilled at the prospect of us "foreigners" going in with a small child. Erika seemed to really like the chapati, and both Chie and I enjoyed the karak, (despite burning our mouths).
After that we went for a wander round Harrods, and in particular the childrens clothing department. I'd last been in there in the January sales, when we bought Erika a surprisingly reasonably priced Gucci cardigan. It was interesting to see as a contrast this time the prices these kinds of designer label kids clothes sell for outside of the sale. We bought a present for Chie's friend Ai-san who recently had a baby - a rather sweet baby blanket (not a designer label I hasten to add), but on this occasion decided not to buy a ~£300 garment for Erika.
We carried on from there to the Waitrose in Belgravia, the original object of our mission, and bought a larger than usual amount of shopping, at least in part because we wanted to use a trolley so Erika could sit in it.
From there we got a taxi back home, and spent most of the rest of the day in the flat, with the exception of a brief outing towards the end of the afternoon to try and get Erika to go to sleep, as she'd only had a very short nap earlier on.
- Tatershall Castle
- [Friday 3rd October 2014]
Went to visit a nursery in the morning, in the area we'd potentially be moving to should our flat purchase succeed. The process is still rumbling along disappointingly slowly. Up until now visits to the area had been generally very positive, and whilst I'm well aware it is a bit mixed - there are nicer bits and not so nice bits - overall I'd felt generally enthusiastic about being able to explore a new part of London. Today for some reason - perhaps because of facing the reality of having to take Erika away from her current nursery, and having to start commuting - I was a lot less keen on our prospective new neighbourhood. I started to notice the grottier bits more, and felt suddenly quite homesick for the relative pleasantness of SW1 (which, though of course is not also without its grotty bits, like any area of London).
On the plus side, in an odd way this helped me to relax about the flat purchase a bit - given that we've still not yet exchanged contracts, the seller can still of course pull out at any point, and with the frustrating delays caused by solicitors seemingly not wanting to do their jobs, that uncertainty has been dragged out a fair bit. So perhaps seeing some of the downsides of the area was helpful for feeling a bit philosophical about the whole thing.
In the evening, after initially going home and making dinner for the girls, I headed out again to meet some friends from work for a drink or two on the Tatershall Castle, the floating "pub" on the Thames near Embankment. Perhaps because of the morning's activity I wasn't wholly in the mood for it, and the not-really-my-type-of-people that the boat seems to attract didn't help.
The people from work all left well before closing time, so I rounded off the evening with a pint at the Ship and Shovel, wherein I read a lovely account of a barman who had worked there during the 1960s, in the days before that decade killed off the bowler hat.
- [Thursday 2nd October 2014]
Pizza for lunch at Maverick near Buckingham Palace.
- [Wednesday 1st October 2014]
- [Tuesday 30th September 2014]
- [Monday 29th September 2014]
- Country Life Fair
- [Sunday 28th September 2014]
Went to the Country Life Fair in Fulham Palace today. This was the first year it had been held.
It turned out to be a bit of a trek getting to Putney Bridge, as we first had to go to my office to print out the tickets (I almost always forget to do this when I'm actually at the office in the week) then the district line wasn't running from Victoria.
Got there just before midday, and were greeted with a glass of Champagne (and a "mocktail" for Erika) on arrival. Then we went for a wander round the stands. Pretty much the first set of which seemed to be all gunmakers, and I was reminded of how contradictory some of my "lifestyle choices" are. I like Country Life for a mixture of its bucolic portrayal of the subject matter to which the title refers, but also the unmistakeable air of posh about it. As a vegetarian though the hunting / shooting / fishing aspect of it obviously sits a bit less well. I think I must be in a really tiny minority of people who like both tweed and tofu.
We headed over to the sort of show ring area, where there was a demonstration of dog handling for children, and also a collection of farm animals. So this was nice for Erika, although as always she likes looking at animals from a safe distance, but under no circumstances actually wants to get close enough to touch them.
We had lunch sitting just outside the big marquis. Although we got a ham and cheese child-oriented sandwich for Erika, she preferred the venison sausage Chie got, combined with some mashed potato from my lunch (surprisingly there was in fact a vegetarian pie on offer, so I can't be the only one). I had a glass of Wiston (an English sparkling wine) to accompany it, which was superbly dry, right up my street.
Continued our wander round the stalls after lunch, and also watched a bit of morris dancing. Managed to get Erika to have a nap in her buggy. We headed off around 3:30.
Not much to report for the remainder of the day.
- Dimsum and the Transport Museum
- [Saturday 27th September 2014]
Met up with a friend of Chie's and her two kids just before midday, the plan for the afternoon being to go for dimsum in Chinatown, followed by a visit to the London Transport museum.
Lunch at Joy King Lau was a lively affair, even though we arrived as soon as they opened at midday the place very quickly filled up, and on our floor in particular there seemed to be lots of hustle and bustle, and lots of kids. To which our table contributed not insignificantly. Whilst I normally might be a bit sensitive about this sort of thing, today I just let it wash over me - most of the surrounding tables seemed to have kids, and I don't think ours were the loudest. Chie's friend didn't appear to be having a particularly relaxing time of it though, and spent the whole time try to prevent her two from fighting, or crawling on the floor, and neither of them seemed particularly keen on actually eating very much. I attempted to lend her a hand towards the end of the meal by having the little boy, the younger of the two, come and sit on my lap for a bit in an attempt to take him out of harm's way of his sister. He did not seem particularly pleased about this, and Erika also cast some indignant gazes in my direction.
The visit to the museum seemed similarly fraught for Chie's friend, who was constantly trying to stop one or the other of the kids from running off. The little boy in particular seemed to have a particularly bold and energetic temperament in this regard. Again we attempted to help out as best we could, but still we couldn't help but spend most of the afternoon thinking how much easier our lives were for only having the one to look after. That said, at one point Erika did throw a bit of a fit, I don't even recall over what now exactly, and as she was being rather unreasonable Chie pretended to walk off and leave her, prompting almost immediately another Mum to rush up to her and say "have you lost your Mummy?" to which we rather embarrassingly had to intervene and say "no, she's just here, and only pretending to abandon her". The expected disapproving looks were of course forthcoming.
Still, between the tantrums and escape attempts I think the kids enjoyed themselves, the highlights seemed to always involve sitting in the hotly contested driving seat of a variety of trains/buses, and pretending to drive.
We rounded off our day out with Chie's friend and her family with an ice cream, and then a run around in St. James's Park, with the hope of tiring them all out a bit.
- Are you at work?
- [Friday 26th September 2014]
Phone call form Dad this afternoon. He usually seems to phone in the daytime on a weekday, and starts off by saying "are you at work?". I don't think he really has much of a concept of a traditional 9-5 office job, as a combination of having mostly been self employed, and his current vocation in which his busiest day of the week is Sunday. I spent a while updating him on the current (lack of) progress on our flat purchase, currently caught in a frustrating quagmire of solicitors not really wanting to do any work. Our solicitor has actually been really good, although - and you can't blame him for it - has just got back from two weeks vacation, which obviously slowed things down a bit. The seller's solicitor on the other hand hasn't been the most responsive, and took two weeks to let us know they hadn't received an attachment to an email.
In order to actually have something to aim for I suggested to my solicitor that we'd like to try and complete within October, which he said should be "perfectly achievable", so let's see how that works out.
- [Thursday 25th September 2014]
Writing this nearly two weeks after the fact, and struggling to remember anything of note about today at all. Location history says I just did the usual route to and from work (via Erika's nursery in the morning), my web search history is not particularly revealing (I seem to have spent a while in the evening reading about the "Shellshock" bug - unlike me of late to take much interest in computery things in my spare time) and my chat history is similarly unrevealing - one solitary message to Chie "left the office now".
- [Wednesday 24th September 2014]
Popped out at lunchtime to post some paperwork off to our solicitor for the flat purchase, which doesn't really seem to be progressing much at the moment, partly because our solicitor is on holiday (which wouldn't have been so much of a problem if the seller's solicitors didn't need constant prodding to do anything). He's back tomorrow, so hopefully things will pick up again from then on.
Since I was out the office, I thought I would try having a quick lunch at the new cafe which has recently opened round the corner. Frustratingly I ended up waiting something like 25 minutes for my food to arrive, and it wasn't even particularly busy.
Pasta for dinner as seems to be becoming a consistent routine of late on Wednesdays. I can understand why Mum had these day-of-the-week meal assignments, as with kids thinking what to make for dinner every night actually starts to get a bit daunting after a while, with all the pressure to make sure Erika is eating a healthy balanced diet etc. Looking back through my chat history it appears we also had garlic bread this evening.
- Leon and Japan
- [Tuesday 23rd September 2014]
Leon was passing through London today, so I went and picked Erika up from nursery and together we took a taxi to the Red Lion in Crown Passage, where we met him. Erika seemed to really enjoy the taxi ride, it's certainly not the first time she's been in a taxi, but maybe it was partly the break from the usual weekday routine. After a quick drink at the Red Lion, we headed on to a restaurant called Inamo, where we met Chie. I'd chosen it in part because it had interactive tabletop menus allowing you to order dishes electronically. I recall having fun in Japan with Leon on Gav in high tech izakayas, ordering from touch screen menus, and thought this might be similarly entertaining. Perhaps predictably though the English equivalent was a bit naff by comparison. Anyway, it was very nice to see Leon regardless, as always.
When we got back home, after putting Erika to bed we booked a trip to Japan for later on this year. Chie wanted to go for a whole 3 weeks, but I'm a bit short of holiday now, and also have less of a reason to work in the Tokyo office so I didn't think I could really manage more than 2 weeks. So for the first time Chie is going to fly one way, on the way out, with just her and Erika, meaning I'll have a week in London by myself before joining the girls for their second and third weeks in Japan, then we all fly back together.
We'd been a bit hesitant about booking the trip with the uncertainty of our flat purchase - at this stage we really don't know if it'll take another three weeks or another three months (or indeed whether it'll just end up falling apart altogether) but Chie is clearly really keen to get back and see her family, and so ultimately I just made an executive decision we should book the trip regardless. In this day and age there shouldn't be many things which actually require our physical presence in the UK, and can't be resolved other the phone or by email.
- [Monday 22nd September 2014]
Chie cooked some of the Okinawan "ofu" her Mum had sent recently. It's a sort of dried wheat gluten in blocks, usually added to soup etc. Chie cooked it chanpuru style.
- [Sunday 21st September 2014]
A bit of time to myself in the afternoon.
- [Saturday 20th September 2014]
Stayed in the flat most of the day.
- Lunch with Erika
- [Friday 19th September 2014]
Erika came to my office for lunch. We went to the Japanese-ish cafe in my office which recently re-opened.
In the evening I stayed around for TGIF, and it was nice enough to sit out on the balcony. Ended the evening with pizza at Oliveto, and probably one too many mirtos.