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:
- Picnic in Hyde Park
Leon and Gav
Heinz Fiery Chilli Beans
Cocktails with Al
Breakfast at the Regency
Back at Work in London
Flying Back to London
Friday in Tokyo
Bow Tie Thursday
Al Dente and Serendipity
Monday in Tokyo
- Picnic in Hyde Park
- [Sunday 21st April 2013]
Went for a picnic in Hyde Park today.
- [Saturday 20th April 2013]
Mum came to visit for the afternoon today.
Chie has hardly been able to have any time away from Erika the last few months, since Erika decided she wasn't happy taking a bottle. However, as we've started weaning her now we can feed her solids and she drinks water from a cup (somewhat inefficiently of course) so we hope she's not quite as reliant on breastfeeding, and therefore Chie constantly being around. So today Chie went out to take part in some of Hannah's hen do - they made fascinators for the afternoon. I think it actually worked quite well today - Chie was away from something like 5 hours in the afternoon, which is quite possibly the longest stretch we've managed since Erika was born!
Mum arrived a bit after midday, and I decided to take her to Tibits for lunch, which I think she quite liked. We also popped into Fortnum and Mason to buy chocolates, before heading back to the flat.
Mum headed off a bit after 6, and we had a quiet evening in - Chie made pasta for dinner.
- Seven Stars
- [Friday 19th April 2013]
Went for a drink with Robert, a former colleague, at the Seven Stars this evening - just for a couple of hours, from 5ish to 7. It was probably originally meant as an opportunity to chew the cud about my current work situation, but we ended up talking about anything but - including holidays on the Cote d'Azur and the relative merits of Crouch End as a place to live.
Hotfooted it back home after that in time for Erika's bath time. Dinner somehow fell by the wayside a bit, the act of trying to get Erika to go to sleep wore me out, and I fell asleep without having eaten anything.
- [Thursday 18th April 2013]
Finally had the official meeting at work today wherein my team was told to go and find new projects - although it has been on the cards for a while. We've been "defragged" - which means the powers that be have decided to consolidate the wider project area I work on into fewer offices, and London was on the losing end of this particular bit of reshuffling, as ours was a relatively small presence. I'll be continuing to work on the project for the time being, quite possibly by myself, to continue to support other teams who rely on our work (ironically we actually have some fairly big launches coming up this summer), and possibly to figure out transition plans etc. Needless to say this was not a particularly happy day at work, but for the immediate future at least I've got plenty to do, so I'm just going to keep my head down and get on with that.
In the evening I made a concerted effort to not think about work, and made a Thai curry for dinner.
- [Wednesday 17th April 2013]
Chie went to her yoga class for a bit in the evening, and I decided to take Erika out for a walk - we ended up going as far as Parliament Square, where I popped into the Red Lion with Erika for a quick pint.
- [Tuesday 16th April 2013]
Took Erika to Oliveto for the second time today, then afterwards popped into my office on the way home as I had a few things I needed to finish off.
- [Monday 15th April 2013]
Chinese food for dinner, of course - it being a monday. Made two dishes - the first Quorn with peppers in black bean sauce, and the other pak choi with mushrooms and tofu in the standard garlic, ginger and sake sauce I often make.
- Regent's Park
- [Sunday 14th April 2013]
Went for a picnic in Regent's Park, and saw some of the (cherry?) blossoms there.
- [Saturday 13th April 2013]
Went to Ikea in Tottenham to buy Erika a high chair.
- Leon and Gav
- [Friday 12th April 2013]
Just one picture from an evening out with Leon and Gav, who was again in London for a short time.
- Heinz Fiery Chilli Beans
- [Thursday 11th April 2013]
We had these for breakfast this morning. They weren't actually very nice.
- Cocktails with Al
- [Wednesday 10th April 2013]
Cocktails with Al in St. James's in the evening.
- Temaki Sushi
- [Tuesday 9th April 2013]
Erika and Chie made temaki sushi for dinner.
- Mr. Kong
- [Monday 8th April 2013]
My cold progressed today, from being mainly an irritating cough, to the next phase of being snotty and sneezy. It did seem to be dragging on a bit.
As always on Mondays I fancied Chinese food for dinner, and I didn't particularly feel in the mood for cooking, so we decided to eat out. We got the 24 bus to Chinatown and dined at one of my two favourite Chinese restaurants there - Mr. Kong. It's still the only place we've found in Chinatown with a separate vegetarian menu. The food was really good as always, and pleasingly there were two other babies in the restaurant, so we didn't feel like the odd ones out.
- Afternoon Off
- [Sunday 7th April 2013]
Chie took Erika to a friend's baby shower in the afternoon, and I was given the afternoon off from parenting duties.
I decided to have lunch in the Fountain restaurant at Fortnum and Mason. I quite like sitting at the counter there - it offers a good vantage point from which to spy on the well heeled regulars. My main course was a rather inventive vegetarian option - globe artichokes with spring morels and asparagus - the morels in particular were really good. I do love a morel. The "triple cooked" chips I ordered as a side dish were a bit of a disappointment though - triple cooked chips are meant to be crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside - these were just like soggy homemade chips. Not sure what went wrong there, but I explained they were a bit below par, and had them taken off the bill.
After that I headed over to the Harp to sample a few ciders, another thing I had missed while I was in Japan. The Harp always has a really good selection of real ciders - and not pasteurised ciders in bottles either, but live ciders in those sort of bag-in-box affairs. I always order halves (I'd order quarters if I could) so I can try a few different ones. This time I had three different ciders, all from Severn Cider - two single varietals (Frederick and Dabinett) and one called "Brown Snout".
I sort of ran out of imagination a bit at the point, and in the absence of being able to think of anything in particular to do, just did a little bit of shopping and headed back to the flat. It felt like a bit of a waste of an afternoon off really, but I suppose was feeling a bit under the weather still, and that seemed to have sapped my enthusiasm somewhat.
Erika and Chie came back from the baby shower towards the end of the afternoon / early evening - and they had a balloon. It's the first time Erika's ever had a balloon to play with, and she seemed quite interested in it. Although perhaps more the ribbon than the ballon itself.
In the evening I made a Thai green curry for dinner, although I think I put too much curry paste in and it was a bit overpowering.
- Better-not Squash
- [Saturday 6th April 2013]
Attempted - not very sucessfully - to feed Erika butternut squash this morning... Obviously a genetic trait she has inherited from me - she really screwed her face up and didn't seem to like it.
Chie went out to meet a friend for a short while towards the end of the morning, and when she got back I knocked up a quick porcini risotto for lunch. Which was rather nice.
To give Chie a bit of a break I took Erika out in the afternoon for another stroll around St. James's.
In the evening I made lasagne for dinner.
- Erika's Hat
- [Friday 5th April 2013]
I finished work at 5 today - when TGIF would usually start - but just headed home as I was feeling a bit under the weather, and hardly any of the usual suspects were around anyway.
Took a couple of pictures in the evening of Erika wearing her strawberry hat, which I thought looked rather cute.
Chie made Japanese curry for dinner.
- Breakfast at the Regency
- [Thursday 4th April 2013]
I think I woke up before 5am this morning - Erika's cold/jetlag was still disrupting her sleep, and therefore ours, and I think I'd caught her cold by this point.
I didn't feel like I was going to get back to sleep so I got up and started doing some work - I had some peer reviews to write which are generally better written at home rather than the office anyway. Chie gave up on attempting to sleep not long after 7 as well, so we decided it might be nice to go out for breakfast - and the three of us headed to the Regency Cafe.
Went to the Middle Eastern shop near the flat on the way back from the office, and made Lebanese food for dinner - one of the things I'd missed while we were in Japan. All the usual favourites - halloumi, falafel, foul medames, tabouleh and so on.
- [Wednesday 3rd April 2013]
Erm, really not sure what to report! Pretty much the same as yesterday, Erika still not sleeping that well overnight, and coughing a lot, so we were all pretty tired.
Sausages and mash for dinner with cavolo nero.
- Back at Work in London
- [Tuesday 2nd April 2013]
First day back at work in London. Not much to report really - popped out for a little stroll around Belgravia at lunchtime to help cope with the jetlag. Erika didn't seem to be adjusting quite so well on the way back - maybe partly exacerbated by the fact she seemed to have picked up a cold in transit. So of course Erika not really sleeping meant none of us were really sleeping. All of this week I actually seemed to manage to function reasonably well at the office in the daytime, but found I was falling asleep almost as soon as I got home in the evening.
Made pesto for dinner which we ate with some fresh pasta and cavolo nero. It was pretty good, but even though I only put one small clove of garlic in it was really overpoweringly garlicky!
- Easter Monday
- [Monday 1st April 2013]
Thanks to Easter Monday I had a day off to recover from jetlag a bit before going back to work.
Chie was keen to just stay in and have a thorough rest today, but I thought at least a short outing would be a good idea - partly because getting out in the daylight helps to adjust to the time zone difference, but also because I'd rather missed London this last month. So I took Erika to do a bit of shopping at Fortnum and Mason - in addition to a rose and violet cream easter egg I picked up some olive oil and a couple of cheeses. Erika slept to begin with, but woke up part way through our time in Fortnum's - so I was sure to show her the displays of all the prettily decorated easter eggs. I remember as a kid being fascinated by grown ups' easter eggs, they always looked so fancy when compared to the gaudy mass produced ones made for kids.
After that we had a bit of a stroll around St. James's - of course being Easter monday pretty much everything on Jermyn street was closed - but it was still nice to look in the windows nonetheless. From there we walked all the way back to the flat, with a stop off at Sainsbury's to buy things for dinner.
Made a roast meal for dinner, which seemed appropriate for Easter monday, and it was rather lovely to have roast potatoes etc after a month away from old Blighty.
- Flying Back to London
- [Sunday 31st March 2013]
Chie's family waved us off at Narita airport this morning, and stayed right up until the last moment when we'd disappeared through security, which was very sweet of them.
The flight back to London went fairly well I suppose, I don't think Erika cried at all the whole time, although at one or two points she did do a few excited shrieks which she seems to have got into the habit of now and again recently. As we were disembarking the chap who'd been sitting behind us told us we have a "top class baby", and went on further to say we must be "top class parents" which rather put a smile on my face. She slept about four hours in total, long enough on one particular stretch for us to properly watch almost a whole film (the latest bond film - Skyfall - which weirdly seemed to turn into Mrs Brown towards the end).
Arriving back in Heathrow is always a bit of a depressing start to returning to the UK. The Heathrow Express annoyed me - the service was a bit infrequent as it was Sunday (or some excuse like that) and in the time we were waiting at the ticket desk (behind which there were two people "working" but only one till open) we missed a train. Singles are now £20 each. We couldn't get a return because we were away from over 30 days (31 days to be precise). Then I got stuck in the lift door - which I reported to the staff and it was met with complete indifference. Then I was thirsty so tried to get a drink from one of the vending machines on the platform, neither of them worked. Then the taxi we got from Paddington was charging a holiday tariff because it was Easter Sunday, which seemed a bit dubious to me. A bit of a grumpy start to being back in England.
Anyway, it was nice when we eventually got back to the flat.
- Leaving Tokyo
- [Saturday 30th March 2013]
Last day in Tokyo today, and last full day in Japan of this trip.
Breakfast in Roppongi, then checked out, and headed over to Ueno for the afternoon.
Had lunch in an Italian place next to the station, after which we met up with Andy. The original plan was for Andy's wife to come along today, so she could meet Erika, but she was ill and decided very considerately to stay home. So we instead had a funny sort of afternoon tea with Andy in a tiny corner of a Doutor coffee shop in Ueno station. Lots of people had come to Ueno today, to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the park, but the weather had turned out to be quite cold, so instead lots of people were sheltering in the various restaurants and cafes around Ueno station, and everywhere was pretty busy. After that Andy and I had one last quick beer together, in the park (a sort of a tip of the hat to a hanami) and then we got the Skyliner train to Narita airport, along with Chie's family.
We'd decided to stay the last night in a hotel in Narita airport, at least partly because we'd had a hard time finding a hotel in Tokyo for that last night (maybe just because people anticipated the cherry blossoms would be in full bloom then?). So we got a frustratingly slow and crowded bus from the airport to the hotel, where we stayed for the remainder of the evening. We briefly met up with Chie's friend Kanako while we were there - she lives near Narita so it was fairly convenient for her to come and meet us at our hotel.
Had dinner in the restaurant in the hotel, where they had "resort style dining" (i.e. an all you can eat buffet). After that we had a drink in Chie's parents room, before calling it a night.
- Friday in Tokyo
- [Friday 29th March 2013]
Last day working from the Tokyo office, and probably the most productive of the week. Went along to their TGIF at the end of the day, which I noticed finishes very abruptly at 6:30. Of all the offices I've visited, London's is definitely the best.
Popped back to the hotel after that, and headed out with Chie and Erika to a restaurant called "Mercer Brunch" where we had dinner with Chie's friends Yuki-san, Yumi-san and Asakua-san. It was a bit swanky and dimly lit and I wasn't really sure what to make of the menu - sort of pan-European tapas I suppose. I left a bit earlier with Erika so that Chie could have a bit of time with the girls, and on the way back to the hotel went by way of the little street of cherry blossom trees I could see from my room. We'd mostly managed to miss the cherry blossoms on this trip - they hadn't really fully bloomed while we were in Hiroshima, but had been earlier in Tokyo, so that they were coming to an end already by the time we got here.
- Bow Tie Thursday
- [Thursday 28th March 2013]
Chie, Erika and Chie's parents flew to Tokyo this morning, and they all came to my office for lunch, which was rather nice.
Met up with Andy again this evening. We'd been planning this evening over email whilst I'd been in Hiroshima, and somehow we'd come up with the idea of wearing bow ties. Andy, being one of the instigators of Pink Shirt Wednesday, dubbed the event Bow Tie Thursday.
We started off with a return visit to the the Hobgoblin in Roppongi - as it turns out it is roughly half way between our two offices. From there the plan was to head straight to Asakusa for the remainder of the evening, but a mistaken connection on the train saw us making a detour by way of Yurakucho, where I was keen to introduce Andy to the vending machine bar there, as I'm sure he'd like it. It did seem to be a big hit with him.
Then we resumed the original plan, and proceded to Asakusa. Andy is a big fan of Asahi so was delighted to have the opportunity to visit their world headquarters, across the Sumida river from Asakusa station, with the famous "golden turd". One of the buildings has a bar at the top, where we had - of course - some Asahi - and enjoyed the views out over Tokyo. Including quite a good view of the Sky Tree, which hadn't been built last time I was here.
Our final destination was one of my favourite bars in Tokyo - Kamiya. Andy took a little while to warm to it, but I think it was eventually considered a success, making my hit rate for the evening very high indeed.
- [Wednesday 27th March 2013]
Met up with Tanaka-san in Ebisu this evening. It's not a district of familiar I'm very familiar with - despite being fairly central and quite a popular area for nights out I hardly ever went there when we were living in Tokyo.
We met at a Pronto near Ebisu station, I got there first as there were problems with the Yamanote line which delayed Tanaka-san (yes they actually do have delays on the trains in Japan!). It's a sort of Italian themed chain of cafe/bars which are all over Japan, and particularly in and around stations. I was pleased to see an Aperol Spritz on the menu, which albeit not a very good rendition thereof still brought back happy memories of last summer in Venice.
I was keen to try the Sapporo beer station, an izakaya attached to the Yebisu beer museum (the nearly eponymous Yebisu beer originates from here, which is now owned by Sapporo). It was actually a bit corporate and bland and pretty much just like any other large open plan izakaya, so we only stayed for one drink here.
The main highlight of the evening, and an unplanned one, was discovering Ebisu Yokocho. It's a little sort of covered alleyway / arcade filled with tiny little bars / eateries which all open out into the same passageway. So sometimes it's hard to know which bar you're actually in. It was really lively, and pleasingly rough and ready - just the sort of thing I was looking for after the disappointment of Sapporo beer station. We went to a couple of little bars there (or maybe we just sat in two different sections of the same bar? who knows?) and it was rather jolly.
- Al Dente and Serendipity
- [Tuesday 26th March 2013]
Another day at the office, not much to report really.
Went for a quick drink after work with some people from the office (two expats and one other visitor) at the "craft beer" bar in Roppongi which I've already become quite fed up with (1200 yen for a US pint - that's the equivalent of £10 a pint at the current exchange, and coverting to UK pints). but which seems unavoidable. I had one (small) drink there and made my excuses.
I was really keen to revisit a spaghetti place in Shinjuku called Al Dente, and so set my mind to get there this evening. Consulting the web though I realised they closed really early - last orders at 9pm - and it was already some time after 8 by the time I left Roppongi. I had a bit of a mad dash to get there - especially as I recall it not being the easiest of places to find - but just made it with five minutes to spare before last orders.
Sometimes when you haven't been to a restaurant for a few years it isn't quite as good as you remember it - or maybe your tastes have just changed in the intervening period - but I'm pleased to report the spaghetti with tomato and mushroom sauce at Al Dente is still utterly delicious. If anything even better than I remember it.
I went for a bit of a walk round Shinjuku after that, to see if I could find an interesting bar to go to or anything, but nothing really took my fancy so I just headed back to Roppongi. On my return though I still wasn't quite ready to call it a night, and decided to try out a cocktail bar I'd heard about from a colleague called Serendipity. Apparently the owner is a friend of Tyler Brûlé, and even has a cocktail named after him there. I started off with a "benchmark" - a Negroni - which was solid if unadventurous with the ingrdients. I then tried the eponymous Serendipity - a secret recipe involving apple juice and the sorts of spices you'd use in mulled wine. Then I ended with the weirdly named "Lady in Devil" (I'm not really sure how to parse that sequence of words) which was surprisingly nice - and made me think I must find a bottle of parfait amour, which has notes of roses and lavender about it.
- Monday in Tokyo
- [Monday 25th March 2013]
The final week of our month's stay in Japan, and I'd be returning to Tokyo to work from the office there again.
I got the shinkansen from Hiroshima to Tokyo in the office, getting me there in time for lunch. Had a fairly quiet afternoon working in the office, then popped out in the evening to revisit Chien-Fu - the recently opened vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Roppongi which we'd been to on the first night. I'm not sure I was quite as impressed second time round, but maybe that's partly just down to the economy of scale you get in a large group in Chinese restaurants, meaning you can try lots of different dishes.
I tried their ma po ramen tonight - which I'd also had at Rohlan recently. It was pretty good, but it occurred to me what an extremely awkward and messy dish to eat ramen is. At one point I accidentally dropped the renge (spoon) into the bowl and splashed oily red soup all over my shirt and trousers. Oh well.
Back to the hotel after that to do a bit more work. I'd decided to stay at the Grand Hyatt for the final week rather than return to the Ritz Carlton - they're both on the list of approved hotels (with corporate rates) for when visiting the Tokyo office, but the Grand Hyatt is the slightly closer of the two. The rooms aren't quite as large or as smart as the Ritz Carlton, for one thing it's ten years old now (ancient in Japanese terms) whilst the Ritz Carlton is less than five. Also, all the staff spoke with American accents, which was a bit of a disappointment... but to some extent a hotel is a hotel, and it would probably have got quite boring to have spent a whole two weeks in the same place.