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
- Other Related Sites:
Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
More Cherry Blossom
The Bridge Inn
Dawlish and Cockwood
London to Devon
First Signs of Spring
Dimsum and the Wallace Collection
Hina Matsuri and Rosie's Birthday
Snowy Start to March
Even More Snow
Walking the Dog
The Green Dragon
Espresso and Negroni
Sleepover and Murger Han
A Teleporter has to be Invented
To Swiss Cottage and Back
Boozy Friday Afternoon
Afternoon Tea / Playdate
- [Saturday 17th March 2018]
Erika had a friend from her first nursery come to visit Kentish Town for a playdate, starting with lunch at Wahaca.
- Birthday Cake
- [Friday 16th March 2018]
Had my birthday cake the day after my birthday.
- My Birthday
- [Thursday 15th March 2018]
Didn't want to make a particularly big deal of it this year after last year's effort, but it did seem like a good excuse to badger a few friends into going to Oliveto, my favourite restaurant. Fortunately they've recently started opening from 6pm (always used to be 7) so even though it was a school night it seemed just about workable to also include Erika in the proceedings.
After dinner we went to Olivogelo for dessert, then waved off Chie and Erika while the rest of us went for a post-dinner cocktail in the bar above Olivocarne (we were essentially doing a tour of Mauro Sanna's exmpire at this point), and then finally the three of us still remaining went for a final drink at the Duke of Wellington.
- [Wednesday 14th March 2018]
Held the inaugural session of the Pineapple Salon in the evening.
- [Tuesday 13th March]
- More Cherry Blossom
- [Monday 12th March 2018]
More cherry blossom in the back garden today.
- The Bridge Inn
- [Sunday 11th March 2018]
Morning in Starcross, an early lunch at Grandad's house, then a quick visit to the Bridge Inn at Topsham on the way to Exeter before getting the train back to London.
- Dawlish and Cockwood
- [Saturday 10th March 2018]
Took the train to Dawlish, walked along the sea wall to Dawlish Warren, then went for a mini pub crawl in Cockwood.
- London to Devon
- [Friday 9th March 2018]
Got the train to Devon in the evening after work/school.
- First Signs of Spring
- [Thursday 8th March 2018]
First blossoms starting to come out on the little cherry blossom tree in our back garden.
- [Wednesday 7th March]
- [Tuesday 6th March]
- Piano Lesson
- [Monday 5th March 2018]
Erika had her first piano lesson today, and afterwards came home and did a bit of practice on my old piano keyboard (which I had been given for my birthday 15 years ago!).
- Dimsum and the Wallace Collection
- [Sunday 4th March 2018]
Went for dimsum at Joy King Lau then visited the Wallace Collection where they had some kid's activities.
- Hina Matsuri and Rosie's Birthday
- [Saturday 3rd March 2018]
Hina Matsuri (Girl's Day) in Japan so for lunch we had chirashi sushi with the Hina Matsuri dolls. In the evening we got a babysitter (!!!) and Chie and I went out for the evening to our friend's birthday party in Soho.
- [Friday 2nd March 2018]
Still snowy, so had fondue for dinner to warm us up.
- Snowy Start to March
- [Thursday 1st March 2018]
- Even More Snow
- [Wednesday 28th February 2018]
Really quite a lot of snow by today.
- More Snow
- [Tuesday 27th February 2018]
Quite a lot of snow today!
- [Monday 26th February 2018]
Started snowing a bit today!
- Walking the Dog
- [Sunday 25th February 2018]
Went to join our friends walking their dog on Hampstead Heath, which ended up partly retracing our steps from last Sunday morning.
- Turkish Food
- [Saturday 24th February 2018]
Went for Turkish food for lunch in Harringay (Haringey? I can never remember which is which), then visited friends for the remainder of the afternoon. In the evening I met up with Ricardo in Hampstead, then walked back home from there.
- Projector Disco
- [Friday 23rd February 2018]
Used the projector to make a disco in the lounge for Erika.
- [Thursday 22nd February]
- Cocktail Cabinet
- [Wednesday 21st February 2018]
Went to Deptford to help Andrew move a cocktail cabinet.
- [Tuesday 20th February]
- [Monday 19th February 2018]
A squirrel came into our back garden.
- Kenwood House
- [Sunday 18th February 2018]
Walked to Kenwood House, had lunch and looked around the interior.
- The Green Dragon
- [Saturday 17th February 2018]
I'd been given the daytime off from parenting as Chie and Erika were going to visit Japanese friends for the day, and so I decided to continue on my theme of weekend walks, ideally out in the country, time permitting, and ideally involving a pub. I'd been looking through CAMRA's inventory of historic pub interiors, focusing just on those "of national importance" within an hour's train journey of London, and so today settled on the Green Dragon at Flaunden.
This time was a bit too short notice to get any of my usual country pub going friends along, so was more of a solo expedition, but I didn't mind particularly - it takes the pressure off a bit actually - if the walk gets a bit long and boring or the pub ends up a bit underwhelming then there's nobody else to complain. Both of these criticisms would not have been entirely unfair if said of today's outing, as it turned out, but I was just happy to be out in the fresh air, with a little bit of a sense of adventure.
I started by getting the tube down to Euston, and from there the train to Hemel Hempstead. I was impressed by how a first class single was only about four quid more, and surprised based on that bargain price to have the first class compartment entirely to myself.
On arrival in Hemel Hempstead I changed into my walking boots - expecting quite severe mud (a prediction which turned out to be quite accurate) - and whilst the eccentric in me likes to doggedly wear brogues regardless of the setting there does come a point where the ability to consistently remain upright whilst proceeding at a reasonable pace seems quite desirable.
The first bit of the walk was possibly one of the nicest bits actually - Hemel Hempstead station is very considerately right at the edge of the town, so it only takes a few minutes before I got a sense of being in the countryside, following the Chilterns Way initially through woodland, past some quite attractive and surprisingly rustic looking dwellings, and then eventually out onto open fields. It was the open fields where the mud was particularly prevalent, and I have to admit after half an hour or so of open fields I was starting to get just ever so slightly bored of the terrain. It took about an hour and a half in total from Hemel Hempstead to Flaunden, and the timing worked quite well as I arrived at the Green Dragon just a few minutes before they opened at midday. Just enough time to change back into my brogues - partly out of consideration for the floor of the pub given how much mud my walking boots had attracted, but also of course because standards must be maintained.
I had planned to arrive early - partly just to make the most of the day so I could get back and spend a few hours with Chie and Erika later on - but also because I very much wanted to to bag a seat in the historic tap room - the sole reason for the pub's inclusion in CAMRA's inventory - and assumed all the locals would similarly pour in at midday with exactly the same thing in mind. I had perhaps slightly over estimated the demand, and was in fact the only customer in the pub for the entire duration of my visit. To that end, nice though the tap room was, I suspect I wasn't really seeing the pub in its best light, and it did feel ever so slightly sad in there in the absence of any other people. They weren't able to serve any food - "a problem with the chef" - and as I was actually quite hungry after my morning's walk I decided I should just have a quick pint and then head on to the backup pub I'd identified with exactly this sort of contingency in mind.
This middle leg of the day's walking, down the hill from Flaunden to Chenies, was a bit more varied and interesting than the latter part of the first leg. A welcome change from the seemingly endless open fields. There was a nice wooded section, and then a little bit along the river Chess, which was very pleasant. One final trudge across a field at the end of it brought me right into the back of the Red Lion.
The words "aukartic free house" on the exterior had perhaps set my expectations for something a bit more quirky and eccentric than the reality actually was. It was a fairly bland interior, and I decided instead to sit in the little courtyard at the side of the pub, which was pleasant enough. I had a sandwich and some chips for lunch, which was fine I suppose.
I decided after lunch to head back to London, as it turned out by this point the nearest station was Chorleywood - the birthplace of awful mass produced sliced bread, no less. This final leg of the walk was rather dull, mostly along a fairly main road, the sort where the verges either side are strewn with litter, presumably thrown out of moving cars. On arrival in Chorleywood I had a bit of time to kill before the next train so I took a quick look around the high street. It's not a very big place but has two independent bakers, which I found slightly ironic.
The train as it turned out was in fact the metropolitan line. It felt slightly surreal having walked 6 or 7 miles through the countryside to then tap in on an Oyster card reader.
- Espresso and Negroni
- [Friday 16th February 2018]
Worked from home, espresso in the afternoon, Negroni in the evening.
- Sleepover and Murger Han
- [Thursday 15th February 2018]
As it was half term Aiko and Mei had come to stay last night. For lunch I went for some Shaanxi Province food at Murger Han near Euston.
- [Wednesday 14th February 2018]
Lunch at the new Temple of Seitan branch in Camden (more like Kings Cross to me) then in the evening went for a drink with Benoit who was visiting from Paris.
- A Teleporter has to be Invented
- [Tuesday 13th February 2018]
A note Erika wrote.
- [Monday 12th February]
- To Swiss Cottage and Back
- [Sunday 11th February 2018]
Walking seems to have become my new thing at the moment, since my trip to Herefordshire at the start of January. For some time now I've had a nagging concern that I really ought to do some kind of exercise, especially since moving from Pimlico, when my office was in Victoria, where at least I'd have a 30 minute round trip on foot to the office and back each day in the week, and on Saturday mornings we'd often take a leisurely stroll into the centre (by way of the Regency Cafe).
It's more like 45 minutes each way to the office now, and some parts of the route are frankly just a bit grim, so it isn't particularly enticing. Besides, for the past few months I've been working from home most of the time as I don't work with anyone who is based in London any more, and the office is in just about every possible way an inferior work environment to home.
So I am trying to at least get in longer walks at the weekends. For mental as much as physical health. I find a long walk a very effective way to clear my head and get a bit of time to myself during which I don't feel pressured to be doing something.
Ideally it would be a repeat of that transcendental stroll through the remote Herefordshire countryside on a crisp still morning with nobody else around, but the reality of living in fairly central London and not being regularly blessed with long periods of free time to get out of the city mean that I typically have to make do with either a very urban amble, or, the best compromise - a walk involving Hampstead Heath.
Today we were going to Swiss Cottage to visit Japanese friends of Chie's who had kids (who were therefore also friends of Erika's) for lunch. They'd been to our place around this time last year for lunch - when I took my first foray into sabrage and wanted to return the favour. As they lived near Swiss Cottage I decided to walk there and back. I did ask if Chie and Erika wanted to come with me but they didn't seem keen.
The most direct route suggested by Google Maps looked a tad dull so instead I diverted slightly to include the southern bit of the Heath. The route from home to the Heath has now become a very familiar one - I usually like to take in College Lane and Little Green Street. But then beyond the Heath the other side, into Belsize Park, took me back to what feels now almost like a past life - when I used to live there in 2000/2001. I walked past my old flat and got to reminiscing about those slightly strange days, approaching two decades ago now. There's that saying about youth being wasted on the young, and certainly Hampstead was wasted on me back then. I had no real appreciation for the finer things in life, no sense of what a desirable place that was to live other than when other people told me. I didn't really explore the surrounding area much when I was living there (as an example the Holly Bush is somewhere I only discovered when I moved back to London post 2007), spent most of my evenings when I was there cooped up indoors working on pet software projects, and often spent weekends back in Reading. What a waste!
Had a nice lunch with Chie's friends who were very hospitable, while Erika was kept entertained playing with their kids.
Then just after 4 I decided it was time to head home and did something like the same walk in reverse, albeit skipping Hampstead Heath on the way back. There was a nice symmetry to the photos I took on Little Green Lane and College Lane on the way back.
- Ice Skating
- [Saturday 10th February 2018]
Erika went ice skating, then we had dim sum.
- Boozy Friday Afternoon
- [Friday 9th February 2018]
Went for lunch with Ricardo, which turned into a boozy afternoon off work.
- [Thursday 8th February 2018]
Checked results of the other day's sabrage in the morning and then a late evening pint in the Pineapple with Jeremy.
- [Wednesday 7th February]
- [Tuesday 6th February]
- [Monday 5th February 2018]
Erika's friend came round for a playdate.
- Afternoon Tea / Playdate
- [Sunday 4th February 2018]
Our friends visiting from America came round for afternoon tea and a playdate.
- Harrow Inn
- [Saturday 3rd February 2018]
The run up to Christmas usually brings with it an increased interest in "quaint" pub outings from friends at work (well actually mainly just Andrew), which are then consistently a failure because either we ultimately deem the pubs not as quaint as we'd hoped they'd be or the rest of the group invited just doesn't really get what that whole expedition is about. The Christmas just gone provided one more in a long line of such failed outings, and the expectation for it to be a disappointment has now become part of the tradition.
Normally post Christmas interest in these kind of country pub jaunts then dries up from the others (again, just Andrew I suppose), and it's back to being something only I really seem to be keen on.
This year however interest in such pub outings continued on into the New Year, and with the added catalyst of our friend Gemma visiting from the US, and a general desire to make her regret her bad life choices (moving to the US) we thought a foray out into the green and pleasant land surrounding London to find some achingly nostalgic little corner of pub idyll would be just the ticket.
Possibly a further factor was that earlier in the week I'd been spending time uploading old photos which I'd never put on the web before including some of a visit to the Cherry Tree last millenium.
So I spent some time researching where to go and eventually found The Harrow Inn which satisfied all the requirements in terms of being convenient for everyone to get to, looking superbly unspoiled, and even not allowing kids inside (which had been the main failing of a previous Christmas pub outing - the incompatibility between family friendly country pubs and beered up potty mouthed Londoners). I then eventually remembered / discovered that this was a pub Dad had recommended to me years ago - I had made a map of a few of his recommendations, and the marker for the Harrow Inn came complete with notes from Dad:
"And one more... maybe the best for last... Steep near Petersfield... Harrow... something of the Cherry Tree character... used to serve beer straight from barrel."
So that was all very nicely book-ended.
I am pleased to report the Harrow Inn was, on our visit today, still spectacularly unspoiled, I imagine almost completely unchanged since Dad was last there (nearly 40 years ago?). It did indeed serve beer straight from the barrel, and did indeed have something of the Cherry Tree's character. The tiny "public bar" room was particularly special, although we only stayed there for our first drink, as I felt we might be intruding on the locals a bit, and I'm aware the volume of that particular coterie tends to get somewhat elevated after the first drink. Hard to put my finger on exactly why it was so special, maybe partly the proportions, maybe the big open fire and the contrast to the drizzle outside, but probably more than anything the sense of timelessness of the place.
We spent most of our time there in the tap room next door, which we mostly had to ourselves, and was still lovely in its own way. The beer was delicious. The food was great, no nonsense big heary Ploughman's lunches with homemade chutney and so forth. Both the landlady and the other lady behind the bar were really welcoming and friendly. It was absolute heaven.
Sadly we did eventually have to leave - less so because of any external pressures but like many old fashioned pubs they actually close between the lunchtime and evening "sessions" as I believe they are referred to in the trade. So we walked back into Petersfield. I had chosen a second pub in the town centre for this eventuality, but it wasn't very good to be honest - the Harrow Inn was a near impossible act to follow.
As is the "tradition" on these country pub jaunts with work friends (the precedent being two trips down to Nyetimber/Nutbourne) I had a quick dash around Petersfield town centre to procure a bottle of English sparkling wine (Hambledon on this occasion if I recall correctly) and a bag of chips to have on the train. With some curry sauce.
As I'd managed to be excused from parenting duties for the whole day, on return to London I proposed going for dinner, which a subset of us did (just me, Andrew and Gemma) but somehow that plan was manipulated into going to Deptford where Andrew lives. We had some sort of Indian food at a hipster-ish restaurant which I was left a bit confused by, followed by cocktails at a bar next to Deptford station, before I finally decided it was time to call it a day and head back home.
- Kings Cross
- [Friday 2nd February 2018]
A couple of early evening views from my office.
- [Thursday 1st February 2018]
- [Wednesday 31st January 2018]
- [Tuesday 30th January 2018]
- [Monday 29th January 2018]
Must have had Chinese food for dinner, followed by lychees for dessert.
- [Sunday 28th January 2018]
Didn't plan anything but Erika managed to see a few of her friends regardless.