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:
Guildhall Harvest Festival
Alice's Birthday Party
Ridgeview and Nyetimber
Negroni and Crisps
Nyetimber Vineyard Tour
Lunch at my Office
Nyetimber and Richard Scarry
Erika's First Day at School
Day After Erika's Birthday
Nyetimber Tasting at Fortnum and Mason
Erika at My Office
- [Tuesday 27th September 2016]
Erika and Chie made macarons in the afternoon and I got to enjoy the fruits of their labour in the evening!
- Guildhall Harvest Festival
- [Sunday 25th September 2016]
Went along to the (very Londony) harvest festival at the Guildhall complete with morris dancing and pearly kings and queens. Also lunch at the Black Friar beforehand.
- Alice's Birthday Party
- [Saturday 24th September 2016]
Took Erika to her friend Alice's Birthday Party, which was Beatrix Potter themed.
- Ridgeview and Nyetimber
- [Friday 23rd September 2016]
Ridgeview and Nyetimber on the balcony at work to celebrate not much other than the end of the week.
- Patio Doors
- [Thursday 22nd September 2016]
Had the patio doors restored over the past few days, and that was completed today, so I took a few pictures. Also had some Sugrue Pierre with dinner.
- Working Late
- [Wednesday 21st September 2016]
Had to stay particularly late in the office today, and by the time I'd finished it was too late to get home in time for Erika's bedtime. So instead I went for a little random wander around London - starting with dinner at San Carlo near Piccadilly, then a quick drink at my club, then finished off at Ye Old Mitre.
- [Tuesday 20th September 2016]
A picture of my wine rack down in the cellar. Quite a lot of Nyetimber at the moment!
- Negroni and Crisps
- [Monday 19th September 2016]
It has been a while!
- [Sunday 18th September 2016]
I'd felt a little bit guilty about dragging Erika around a vineyard tour yesterday, not exactly high on the list of things four year olds are typically into - although I actually think she managed to enjoy at least some of the day out, and she does seem to like spending time with my friends from work.
Anyway, it seemed fair to let her choose what we should do today, and so of course she opted for that old stalwart the zoo. We only spent a couple of hours there though, and when it came to lunch we agreed it would be nice to eat somewhere outside the zoo. Erika fancied pasta (which is pretty much what she always says when you ask her what she'd like to eat) and so we decided to eat at the pasta place near home, so Chie could come along as well.
It's normally pretty quiet there, but we got there at one of their rare busy times, and had a long wait for our food... then they got the order wrong, so it wasn't a very successful lunch. These things happen though.
We attempted to make up for that with some ice cream at the ice cream place near home, which I'm still a bit unconvinced about, but Erika seems to like it.
Stayed at home for the remainder of the day.
- Nyetimber Vineyard Tour
- [Saturday 17th September 2016]
As you have probably surmised from recent posts/pictures I am rather obsessed with Nyetimber at the moment. Several factors contributing to this, possibly just including the weather - prior to the summer I had been really into Burgundy, but in the warmer months I seemed to have more of a taste for white and ideally sparkling wine. Also Brexit! Initially rather flippantly I thought I ought to start getting more used to British products as surely the exchange rate must have an effect on Champagne prices at some point (doesn't seem to have yet) and possibly, longer term, even supply issues... but actually then I started to think - politics aside - who needs Champagne? I actually think Nyetimber is now my favourite sparkling wine, even beating old stalwarts like Veuve Clicquot, and there are enough other new English sparkling wines to discover to keep things interesting should I ever want a bit more variety.
Anywho, in the midst my recent Nyetimber craze I'd been starting to think I'd really like to do a vineyard tour. Nyetimber only opens for these two weekends a year, and they tend to sell out months in advance. One of those weekends was this weekend, and I'd sent them an email earlier in the week just on the off chance there were any last minute cancellations. To my delight yesterday they'd replied to say there indeed were, and so I managed to rustle up a couple of likeminded friends from work, and today we headed down to West Sussex.
It's not the easiest of places to get to, being in the middle of the countryside, and a few miles away from the nearest station. Driving there would of course rather defeat the object. As I've been rather craving a bit of a stroll out in the country for a while now I determined we should get the train to Pulborough, then walk from there, stopping off en route at a country pub for lunch before heading on to the vineyard.
The first bit of the walk was a bit dull - Pulborough has one or two nice buildings, but the majority of the town is a bit drab, and the relentless stream of cars on the main road we were walking along didn't exactly give the impression of a rural idyl. Eventually though our route took us off the main road, along a leafy country track, over some open fields, and then through a farm yard to the pleasant little hamlet of Nutbourne - all of which was much more like the sort of thing I had in mind. Thankfully we'd made the executive decision to press on past the first pub we'd seen on the outskirts of Pulborough, as the Rising Sun in Nutbourne was a real treat. Lovely ivy clad exterior, pleasingly quirky and unspoiled interior. They had local wines from not one but two vineyards - Nyetimber (of course) but even closer than that was Nutbourne vineyard - just a few hundred yards away - and given we'd be tasting the full range of Nyetimber at the vineyard later we sampled some Nutbourne at the pub. Very nice too - I particularly liked the blush.
The food was also very good - perhaps most notable was my baked camembert to start, and the excellent tomatoes which also came from just a stone's throw away - it turns out Nutbourne doesn't just have two excellent vineyards on its doorstep, but also a nursery growing some really high end tomatoes, which usually supplies London's best restaurants. The locals here really are spoiled and I have to admit to searching for available properties in Nutbourne when I returned home this evening. What a lovely corner of England.
Alas eventually we had to leave the Rising Sun - I'd have very happily wiled away the rest of the day here - for the 2 o' clock tour and tasting at Nyetimber beckoned. Although I say so myself, my routefinding and overall planning of the day out up to the pub had worked rather perfectly. I think the excellent wine from Nutbourne vineyards has to take part of the blame for the rather less than perfect journey from there to Nyetimber - I'd underestimated how long we'd need by about half an hour somehow, exacerbated by the fact we took a wrong turning, and ended up having to cut across some fields, and climb over a few barbed wire fences. All part of the fun!
So we arrived at Nyetimber well after 2, but they kindly said we could join the tasting of the 2 o' clock session, but the the vineyard tour of the 4 o' clock session - so effectively doing it in reverse. Which suited us just fine.
Nyetimber currently produce five wines - there's their classic cuvee, a blanc de blancs, a rosť, a demi sec and their "Tillington Single Vineyard". We'd tasted all five of these at the tasting at Fortnum and Mason the other day, and the tasting today covered the first four. So there was nothing new, in a sense, but then it's often said that wines taste better at the vineyard, "tasting the terroir" and all that. It's a great setting, in an ancient wooden barn, and the added "adventure" of having got there added to the appreciation.
Then at 4 we tagged along with the vineyard tour of the next group. Vineyards are quite magical places - much like orchards - and with the slightly gloomy weather, and the general elation of the day's plan having all worked out in the end, it had a somewhat otherworldly feel to it. I transported Erika around on my shoulders, we tasted some of the grapes, it was lovely.
An added benefit of our bumbling travel arrangements, highlighted by our late arrival, was that the staff of Nyetimber took pity on us, and offered us the use of their minibus to get from there back to the station. Which was pretty fortunate really, while I would quite happily have tramped back across the fields under my own steam (especially with another stop off at the excellent Rising Sun!) I don't think anyone else in the group was that keen!
Once back at the station, we had just a few minutes before our train, and dinner time was approaching. We'd used up all our snacks for Erika on the way there, and there had been no trolly or anything on the train on the way there. So I darted into the only business of any description selling food near the station - a fish and chips place - and grabbed us some fish and chips to eat on the train. This was particularly fortuitous as the train was delayed en route, and it took a look time to get back to London - so a potential crisis of a tired and hungry toddler was successfully averted. I also cracked open a bottle of Nyetimber to get us home, albeit that my best efforts to improvise with drinking vessels - the little polystyrene cups they have in fish and chip shops for curry sauce etc - did not meet with widespread approval.
Overall an absolutely lovely day out, one of the highlights of the year for me.
- TGIF Reunion
- [Friday 16th September 2016]
Got together after work with an old friend from work who had moved to the US a few years ago, allowing our respective offspring to play together for a short while.
- Lunch at my Office
- [Wednesday 14th September 2016]
Erika came to my office for lunch, and a colleague kindly gave her a balloon.
- Nyetimber and Richard Scarry
- [Tuesday 13th September 2016]
Picture of my "fleet" of Nyetimber, before I put it away in the cellar. Oh and Erika got a Richard Scarry book to read from school, which was a wonderful blast from the past.
- Erika's First Day at School
- [Monday 12th September 2016]
Today was Erika's first day at the nursery year of her school - they have a year before reception. I suppose in a way this soft start takes away from some of the momentousness of starting school proper - so it didn't feel like much of a big deal for any of us - but maybe that's not such a bad thing. It did feel quite gratifying though that our relatively long term plan seems to be working out - obviously schools were a big factor in moving to the area etc. The place in nursery does not guarantee a place in the school proper - although the school controls nursery admissions, the council controls school admissions. But the same criteria are applied, so as long as roughly the same set of people apply for the school (and I'd be surprised if anyone in Erika's year lives closer than we do!) we ought to be a fairly safe bet.
For this first week she only went in the mornings, then next week mornings including lunch, then from the following week full time. Having attended day nurseries previously we didn't anticipate she'd have much trouble settling in though.
Also today, work continued on repairing the plaster at the front of the house, and two boxes of wine arrived from Fortnum and Mason - bottles I'd ordered at the Nyetimber tasting last Thursday.
- Day After Erika's Birthday
- [Sunday 11th September 2016]
Fairly quiet today after the excitement of the party the day before. In the evening, did a footprint of Erika's foot (we've been doing this every year on or around her birthday) and I tried on my new tweed suit.
- Erika's Birthday
- [Saturday 10th September 2016]
Pictures from Erika's Birthday, with special guest Captain Barnacles!
- Nyetimber Tasting at Fortnum and Mason
- [Thursday 8th September 2016]
Work got under way today repairing the render at the front of the house (and also a few other odd jobs while they're at it), something we probably should have seen to a year ago, but like most things finding the right contractor hadn't been easy.
After work I had a short but sweet evening out to attend the Nyetimber tasting at Fortnum and Mason, held in the Crypt, along with a few friends from work. It was fascinating listening to Julian Kirk talk about Nyetimber as we tasted pretty much the full range - from the classic cuvee to the Tillington Single Vineyard, which, at around £70 is probably the most expensive bottle of English sparkling wine currently on sale. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Headed back home after that to swap over with Chie, who was going out for the remainder of the evening.
- Erika at My Office
- [Wednesday 7th September 2016]
Erika came to my office for lunch.
- Farmers Market
- [Sunday 4th September 2016]
Erika met up with Zia again for a bit today, this time at the Islington Farmers Market near Angel, then back to their house for a bit.
- [Saturday 3rd September 2016]
Went to Folkestone for the day and met up with Leon, Yukari and family there.