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
- John's Pictures
Main Index (text only)
- John's Travel
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Highgate Cemetery and Hampstead Heath
Chateau Musar White
Lunch at the Pineapple
New Year's Day
New Year's Eve
Vera and Robin
Boxing Day in Cheddar and Clevedon
Christmas Day in Devon
Christmas Eve in Devon
London to Devon
Winter Solstice at Avebury
Saturday before Christmas
More Green Shoots
Serpent Trail: Haslemere to Northchapel
Bear and Wolf
Pie and mash
Sussex Ouse Valley Way: Balcombe to Lindfield
Cakes and Ale
Royal Oak at Wineham
Elevenses and Sushi
Boot and Flogger and Brawn
Bunk, Monk and Funk
Bread by Bike
Ouse Valley Way: Newhaven to Lewes
Google Home Mini
Lansdowne Club and Brasserie Zedel
Dimsum and Party
Erika's School Disco
The Seven Stars
Home from the Inn Contented
GevCham in the Garden
Sugrue in the Garden
Bostal Hill to Southease
Wednesday in Rome
Tuesday in Rome
Monday in Rome
Genoa and Pisa
Florence and Pisa
London to Florence
Arrivals from Japan
Matilda the Musical
Japanese School and Nerf
Chie Off to Japan
Polegate to Berwick
Sugrue Harvest Box
What a Difference a Day Makes
- Highgate Cemetery and Hampstead Heath
- [Saturday 11th January 2020]
I went for an urban walk this morning while Erika was at her Japanese school - took in Highgate Cemetery and Hampstead Heath.
- [Friday 10th January 2020]
Night out with the usual suspects, involving laksa.
- Chateau Musar White
- [Thursday 9th January 2020]
Had Lebanese food for dinner and tried Chateau Musar's white wine for the first time.
- Lunch at the Pineapple
- [Wednesday 8th January 2020]
Went with Chie for lunch at the Pineapple.
- Evening Walk
- [Tuesday 7th January 2020]
Went out for an evening walk to get some exercise.
- Gomshall Mill
- [Sunday 5th January 2020]
Went down to Gomshall for lunch at the Gomshall Mill with Adrian, Liz and the kids.
- [Saturday 4th January 2020]
I'd been pleased to discover that wassailing was not something purely confined to the West Midlands and West Country, and that a few of the morris sides in the home counties organised an event, particularly in Sussex where there was also something of a cider industry. I think ideally I would have liked to go back to the wonderful Leominster Morris wassail in Herefordshire again this year, which I had attended two years ago. It had felt incredibly atavistic, and had in a way been the catalyst for my new found desure to spend more time in the countryside over the past couple of years, in part manifested through a lot of country walks.
However, the Leominster Morris always holds their wassail on Twelfth Night, the 6th of January, regardless of which day of the week that falls on. That would have been a Monday this year, and would probably have required taking at least a half day off work either side to get there and back. So it seemed eminently more sensible to go to the Chanctonbury Morris wassail in Sussex, not far from Haywards Heath, today, it being a Saturday evening.
The event was scheduled to start at 6pm, but I aimed to get there slightly earlier so I could visit the cider bar/shop at the location where the wassail was being held beforehand. The bar had apparently only opened in the last year, and although I was delighted to discover a bar solely dedicated to cider (such a rare commodity!) I did slightly worry how it would work out as a business proposition - it's a surprisingly remote spot, and there's pretty much no way to get there other than by car. I had got a taxi from Haywards Heath, which admittedly is pretty well served for taxis, but I wondered how many other people might do the same.
Anyway, at least this evening there was a fairly impressive turnout, which suggests people can manage it! Quite possibly around a hundred people were there...?
As billed, with impressive punctuality, the proceedings did indeed start around 6pm, and the gentleman I assumed to be the squire of the Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men gave an address to the assembled crowd. The attendees then collected flaming torches and processed along the track from the main cluster of farm buildings to the orchard. There had also been a torch lit procession in Herefordshire two years ago, and this really does add an edge of drama to an event like this, and gives it a really primal and magical feel. Particularly given that once we got away from the farm buildings there were no other light sources in the immediate vicinity. I hope the pictures convey some sense of the atmosphere at this point.
I decided not to take a torch in hand myself, partly because I got the sense they were in short supply and partly because I wanted to keep my hands free to take pictures (and drink cider!).
When we arrived at the orchard we formed a large circle and the ceremony began. There were verses read, songs sung, later on dances danced, but the most fun part was the part where all present were invited to make loud noises to wake up the apple trees. I had brought with me a slightly ridiculous slide whistle to contribute (see this video for the cacophony).
Then we eventually processed back to the farm buildings and The Cider Tap for wassail cakes, more cider, and more morris dancing. I joined in with one of the dances a bit later on, and it was a wonderful reminder of when I'd been an occasional dancer in the Penallt Morris Men, with Dad, in the late 1980s.
The plan after the wassail at Wobblegate was for the festivities to continue at the Royal Oak in Wineham. I had originally thought I might do a night time walk to get there, but ultimately the thought of a couple of miles stumbling through dark countryside after a couple of pints of cider didn't entirely appeal, so I asked around and managed to get a lift.
Although I love the Royal Oak, I had been just before Christmas, and somehow once I got there this evening I wasn't really in the mood. The morris dancers seemed to want to (quite reasonably) have a quiet time of it after their exertions at the wassail. I had heard there was going to be music there from 8pm, but by about 8:30 nothing had as yet started, and I decided instead maybe I should just head home. I did still have the uncertainty of whether or not I'd be able to get a taxi from the Royal Oak back to Wineham - as it turned out when I called them it was fine, but maybe it would have been a different story had I stayed until 10pm. So as it turned out I was back in London around 10pm, and back home by 10:30.
See also this Google Photos album, which contains the same pictures as linked to above, in addition to a few videos.
- [Friday 3rd January 2020]
Another quiet day at home. Opened a half bottle of Nyetimber in the evening.
- Winter Wonderland
- [Thursday 2nd January 2020]
Took Erika to Winter Wonderland for the afternoon, then later on dinner at Oliveto.
- New Year's Day
- [Wednesday 1st January 2020]
Had a quiet day at home and ate some Japanese food. Erika didn't get out of her pyjamas all day!
- New Year's Eve
- [Tuesday 31st December 2019]
I went for a walk in the morning - a circular walk starting and ending at Liss, with a section of the Shipwrights Way on the way towards Petersfield, a lunch stop at the Harrow Inn at Steep, then back to Liss via part of the Hangers Way. See also John Goes For a Walk.
In the evening we had local friends over for New Year's Eve.
- Ashdown Forest
- [Monday 30th December 2019]
Went for a walk in the Ashdown Forest with Chie and Erika to see the Pooh Sticks Bridge and Gills Lap.
See also John Goes For a Walk.
- Camp Stove
- [Sunday 29th December 2019]
Spent the afternoon chopping up wood, assembling an improvised wood store, and trying out my new camp stove which generates electricity.
- Vera and Robin
- [Saturday 28th December 2019]
Went to see Vera and Robin in Abergavenny in the daytime before heading back to London in the evening.
- Boat Inn
- [Friday 27th December 2019]
Met up with Bec and family at the Boat Inn in Penallt, and stayed the night at the St. Pierre Country Park.
- Boxing Day in Cheddar and Clevedon
- [Thursday 26th December 2019]
Left Starcross in the morning, and drove to Cheddar, where we went to see the caves and the Gorge. After that we drove on to Clevedon where we had dinner and stayed the night.
- Christmas Day in Devon
- [Wednesday 25th December 2019]
Presents in the morning, a midday stroll to the Anchor at Cockwood, then Italian food for dinner.
- Christmas Eve in Devon
- [Tuesday 24th December 2019]
The plan for today was to stock up at the big Sainsbury's in Pinhoe near Exeter, then have a lunchtime drink at the marvellous Bridge Inn in Topsham. Slightly waylaid by an unexpected trip to Kwik Fit!
- London to Devon
- [Monday 23rd December 2019]
Took the train to Bristol, stopped up for lunch there, then picked up a Zipcar and drove the rest of the way down to Devon.
- Winter Solstice at Avebury
- [Sunday 22nd December 2019]
Following on from the summer solstice this year, something about Avebury had obviously got under my skin. I had pondered on and off the thought of going back for the winter solstice, largely assuming that when the time came I'd be put off by the thought of the cold and the dark and the hassle of getting there. So I had slightly surprised myself when, yesterday evening, I had come to the decision that I was definitely going to make a go of it.
Having done some research on the transport logistics I'd come to the conclusion the only way to be there for the sunrise was to travel the night before. Sunrise would be around 8am, and it being a Sunday the first train out of Paddington to Swindon didn't leave until that time.
So I had stayed in the incredibly frugal Holiday Inn Express near Swindon station the previous night, and arranged a taxi from there at 6am, which got me to Avebury a little over 20 minutes later. In hindsight that was probably a bit too early, I could have had at least another hour's sleep and wouldn't have really missed much at all. I had thought perhaps there might be people there throughout the night, perhaps performing some ancient rituals or some such, but if they were they were well hidden! As it was, around 6:30am I was pretty much the only person out and about as far as I could tell.
That said, that hour walking around the stones of Avebury in almost complete solitude - and almost complete darkness - was actually quite atmospheric. Although the skies were not entirely clear the moon poked through at times, and seeing the stones by moonlight before the dawn gave them an added other worldly quality.
Eventually, and quite reassuringly, other people did start to trickle in, and slowly gathered on the ridge to the south east of the village - the same place where we had sat to watch the sunset at the summer solstice.
The clouds lifted almost like curtains in a theatre being drawn to make the stage visible, and we were treated to a wonderful sunrise, which hopefully the photos do at least some justice to. Later on, after the sunrise was complete, the clouds moved back in again. It really did give a sense of a planned show.
See also John Goes for a Walk.
- Saturday before Christmas
- [Saturday 21st December 2019]
Took Erika Christmas present shopping in the afternoon, then on a whim, after Erika went to bed, I got a late train to Swindon so I could be up early the next morning to see the sunrise for the winter solstice at Avebury.
- [Thursday 19th December 2019]
Dentist appointment in the daytime, which meant the traditional post-dentist visit to Oliveto, where they had tagliolini with white truffle as a special. In the evening went round to our local friends for dinner.
- Carol Concert
- [Wednesday 18th December 2019]
A couple of pictures of Erika's school carol concert - although you can't actually quite see Erika in any of them!
- More Green Shoots
- [Tuesday 17th December 2019]
Checking up on the state of the green shoots in the garden.
- [Monday 16th December 2019]
Just took a picture of the menu of the new Korean place near us.
- Serpent Trail: Haslemere to Northchapel
- [Saturday 14th December 2019]
Did a section of the Serpent Trail, starting out at Haselemere, then up over Tennyson's Black Down to take in the views from the Temple of the Winds, and then finally down to Northchapel to visit the Half Moon Inn.
Read more here.
- Bear and Wolf
- [Friday 13th December 2019]
Took Erika to Bear and Wolf for breakfast in the morning before school.
- Pie and mash
- [Thursday 12th December 2019]
Pie and mash for lunch.
- [Wednesday 11th December 2019]
Clocked off work a bit early for a quick pint at the Pineapple.
- [Tuesday 10th December 2019]
Erika and a couple of her friends came to visit my office after school.
- [Monday 9th December 2019]
Spent the evening making creatures from Greek mythology, then organising all of Erika's Lego.
- [Sunday 8th December 2019]
Our wedding anniversary. Went for lunch at Royal China Docklands then took a boat trip along the Thames.
- Sussex Ouse Valley Way: Balcombe to Lindfield
- [Saturday 7th December 2019]
Did another section of the Sussex Ouse Valley Way today - from Balcombe to Lindfield, taking in the Ouse Valley Viaduct.
Read more here.
- Christmas Tree
- [Friday 6th December 2019]
Received our Christmas tree today, and decorated it in the evening.
- [Thursday 5th December 2019]
Erika's gymnastics class had their end of term competition this evening.
- Green Shoots
- [Wednesday 4th December 2019]
The first green shoots from the bulbs Erika and I planted poked up through the soil in the garden today.
- Cakes and Ale
- [Tuesday 3rd December 2019]
Went to the office in the daytime. In the evening started reading Cake and Ale and had some Chambolle-Musigny.
- Frozen 2
- [Sunday 1st December 2019]
Took Erika to see Frozen 2.
- Local Friends
- [Saturday 30th November 2019]
Spent the afternoon with local friends - met in one of the nearby playgrounds, then went to the Pineapple for a little bit, then they came back to ours.
- Royal Oak at Wineham
- [Friday 29th November 2019]
Annual pre-Christmas quaint pub outing, this year to the Royal Oak at Wineham.
- [Wednesday 27th November 2019]
Leon was passing through London so we went out for a drink.
- [Tuesday 26th November 2019]
First pictures with new phone camera.
- New Phone
- [Monday 25th November 2019]
My new Pixel 4 arrived today.
- Elevenses and Sushi
- [Sunday 24th November 2019]
Had some caneles for elevenses in the morning. In the afternoon a friend of Erika's came over to play, and ended up staying for dinner, for which we made temaki sushi.
- Wing Yip
- [Saturday 23rd November 2019]
Mum came to visit, and we went to the Chinese restaurant attached to the Wing Yip supermarket in Cricklewood for lunch.
- Boot and Flogger and Brawn
- [Friday 22nd November 2019]
Had a night out with some of the usual suspects, starting at the Boot and Flogger near London Bridge, then later on went to hip East London for dinner at Brawn, where Keira Knightley was sitting at the next table to us.
- Bunk, Monk and Funk
- [Wednesday 20th November 2019]
Was inspired by recently seeing Christian to order his Dad's biography.
- New Thermostat
- [Tuesday 19th November 2019]
Got a replacement thermostat for the new infrared panel heater, as the first one wasn't working very well.
- Bread by Bike
- [Sunday 17th November 2019]
Erika had an impromptu sleepover at a friend's house the night before, I went to pick her up this morning and together we went to Bread by Bike for bread and coffee (or hot chocolate in Erika's case). Later on in the afternoon Erika had a birthday party to go to.
- Ouse Valley Way: Newhaven to Lewes
- [Saturday 16th November 2019]
Today I decided to walk some of the Sussex Ouse Valley Way, from Newhaven to Lewes. It was a bit of a boring walk, to be honest, but nice to end in Lewes which was lovely as always.
- Google Home Mini
- [Friday 15th November 2019]
For some reason one of these arrived in the post today. I really don't know why!
- Infrared Heater
- [Wednesday 13th November 2019]
Got Jeremy to help install a new infrared heating panel in the back bedroom.
- [Tuesday 12th November 2019]
Had a pie from Pieminister for dinner. Thought it was very good.
- Lansdowne Club and Brasserie Zedel
- [Monday 11th November 2019]
Christian was visiting from New York, and we spent the evening at the Lansdowne Club followed by Brasserie Zedel.
- Dimsum and Party
- [Sunday 10th November 2019]
Went to Joy King Lau for dimsum for lunch, did a spo of shopping, then later in the afternoon Erika went to a birthday party.
- [Saturday 9th November 2019]
I only seemed to take one picture today, of Erika steam cleaning the kitchen floor.
- Free Damm
- [Friday 8th November 2019]
Local friends came round for pizza in the evening and we had alcohol free beer. It's really not that bad.
- Erika's School Disco
- [Thursday 7th November 2019]
Took Erika along to her school disco in the evening.
- The Seven Stars
- [Wednesday 6th November 2019]
Spent the evening in the Seven Star with the usual suspects.
- Home from the Inn Contented
- [Tuesday 5th November 2019]
Spurred on by my visit to the Seven Stars on Sunday, I had been planning a return visit with the usual suspects, and thought it a good time to re-read some of Roxy's cook book.
- New suit
- [Sunday 3rd November 2019]
I popped down to Holborn in the morning to pick up a new suit from Walker Slater.
- GevCham in the Garden
- [Saturday 2nd November 2019]
Mostly stayed at or close to home today as Erika was a bit unwell. Had some GevCham in the garden in the early evening.
- [Friday 1st November 2019]
- [Thursday 31st October 2019]
Took Erika to a Halloween party at her friend's house, and out for a bit of trick or treating. She bravely soldiered through the evening because she had been looking forward to it so much, but was actually a bit under the weather and not her usual bubbly self!
- Sugrue in the Garden
- [Wednesday 30th October 2019]
Had some Sugrue out in the garden in the evening.
- [Tuesday 29th October 2019]
A couple of pictures from the office today.
- [Monday 28th October 2019]
Olives on the olive tree in our back garden.
- Bostal Hill to Southease
- [Sunday 27th October 2019]
Absolutely lovely afternoon walk along the South Dow ns Way with Erika, starting at Bostal Hill and ending at Southease.
- King's Arms
- [Saturday 26th October 2019]
Caught up with the usual suspects, who I hadn't seen for a while, at the King's Arms near Waterloo.
- [Friday 25th October 2019]
Most of the morning on the sleeper train, arrived into Paris towards the end of the morning and proceeded to have a not particularly successful time in the French capital before eventually just giving up and getting an earlier Eurostar back to London.
- Wednesday in Rome
- [Wednesday 23rd October 2019]
Went to see the Forum and the Colosseum in the morning, then did nothing much in particular for the rest of the day other than eating and drinking.
- Tuesday in Rome
- [Tuesday 22nd October 2019]
More sightseeing punctuated with food and drink, the main event today being a visit to the Vatican Museum.
- Monday in Rome
- [Monday 21st October 2019]
Took the Frecciabianca from Pisa to Rome in the morning, then spent the afternoon and evening in Rome exploring the sights within walking distance of our apartment there - the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.
- Genoa and Pisa
- [Sunday 20th October 2019]
Took the Frecciabianca from Pisa to Genoa in the morning where I met up with Ricardo and Katherine who were also in Italy for a few days, and had lunch at old favourite Osteria di Vico Palla. Back to Pisa towards the end of the afternoon to meet Chie, Erika and Yoko-san who had flown there from London and would be joining me for the rest of the trip.
- Florence and Pisa
- [Saturday 19th October 2019]
Spent the daytime in Florence chez Lorenzo, ending with a shortened version of the traditional Negroni crawl (at old favourites Rivoire and Gilli), then moved on to Pisa in the evening.
- London to Florence
- [Friday 18th October 2019]
Eurostar from London to Paris, TGV from Paris to Turin, then Frecciarossa from Turin to Florence.
- Wedding Anniversary
- [Thursday 17th October 2019]
Chie and I went out for a quick drink as a nod to our wedding anniversary.
- [Wednesday 16th October 2019]
Went to the office today, and was actually trapped in around lunchtime for a couple of hours thanks to Extinction Rebellion protests.
- Arrivals from Japan
- [Tuesday 15th October 2019]
Chie flew back from Japan today, and brought her Mum back with her.
- [Sunday 13th October 2019]
Erika went to a party in the afternoon and I opted for some grown up time in the pub with Ricardo.
- Cereal Killer
- [Saturday 12th October 2019]
Took Erika to Cereal Killer, the cereal themed cafe in the morning.
- [Wednesday 9th October 2019]
Erika went to play at a friend's house in the early evening so I had a quick visit to the Pineapple.
- Greek Gods
- [Monday 7th October 2019]
In the evening Erika and I made some drawings of Greek gods, in keeping with her current topic at school.
- Matilda the Musical
- [Sunday 6th October 2019]
Took Erika and her friend to see Matlida the Musical. Both Erika and I thought it was very good.
- Japanese School and Nerf
- [Saturday 5th October 2019]
Took Erika to her Japanese school in the morning, and tried to pass the time while she was there in Brent Cross shopping centre, which was frankly hard work. Bought ESW and Nerf guns which provided the entertainment for the remainder of the day.
- [Friday 4th October 2019]
Was hoping to have an end of the week drink but the bottle was faulty! Later on took Erika for an ice cream.
- Chie Off to Japan
- [Thursday 3rd October 2019]
Chie flew off to Japan today. I took Erika and her friend out for dinner to Wahaca in the evening.
- Jelly Tots
- [Tuesday 1st October 2019]
Erika and I had some Jelly Tots.
- [Monday 30th September 2019]
It was raining today.
- Vegan Sushi
- [Sunday 29th September 2019]
Went to Selfridges to try vegan sushi. It wasn't very good to be honest.
- Polegate to Berwick
- [Saturday 28th September 2019]
Went for a walk in the South Downs, from Polegate to Berwick.
- Cider Fair
- [Friday 27th September 2019]
Went to the cider fair at Canopy Market for a bit.
- [Thursday 26th September 2019]
Met up with Jim and Ricardo in Soho for a bit in the evening.
- Sugrue Harvest Box
- [Tuesday 24th September 2019]
Received a Sugrue "Harvest Box" today and tried one of the bottles in the evening.
- [Sunday 22nd September 2019]
Erika and I went for a walk to Hampstead Heath and sat on a bench eating salt and vinegar crisps. It was lovely.
- Alice's Party
- [Saturday 21st September 2019]
Lunch at the Pineapple followed by Alice's party.
- [Friday 20th September 2019]
Lunch at Temple of Camden.
- The Bounty
- [Thursday 19th September 2019]
As it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day I had arranged to go to The Bounty (the most piratey pub I know) with a couple of friends who still live in the Reading area, and coincidentally are both called Simon.
- What a Difference a Day Makes
- [Wednesday 18th September 2019]
Much progress in the garden just in the last 24 hours!
- Garden Check
- [Tuesday 17th September 2019]
Usual check on the state of things in the garden - another rose has bloomed and two of the tomatoes are a really good size now.