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:
- Extremely Good Pizza and Some Other Less Good Things
Okonomiyaki and Sake
Bangers and Mash
Day out in London with Vera
Vera Comes to London
Curry and a The Pub Crawl That Maths Planned
Starting the New Project
Sunday with Chie
Doctors and A New Project
Not Much To Report
West London Pub Crawl
Croft Castle and Herefordshire Villages
Saturday in Abergavenny
End of the Week
Quiet night in
North of Hyde Park Pub Crawl
Taking over the World
Beer in Belgravia
- Extremely Good Pizza and Some Other Less Good Things
- [Friday 22nd May]
Went to the hospital for yet another scan this morning. I think this is my third time, and the process is becoming depressingly familiar. Although, that said, as an added novelty the admin staff at the hospital this morning were spectacularly inept at sorting out the necessary paperwork. It took them half an hour, involving at least 5 different people, to find my referral form - I kept telling them to just phone my GP and get them to fax it again, but they didn't appear capable of "thinking out of the box" like that. The whole thing was pointless anyway as I was quite capable of explaining exactly what the issue was in much more detail than the two line summary on the referral - but no they've "got to have the form". It seemed eventually that the form had been filed in a different place to usual either because it had been posted through rather than faxed, or because this was not my first visit to the hospital. Either way they really need to get their bloody act together.
Anyway, after all that pointless bureaucracy I eventually got seen to. It was a different radiologist (if that is the right word) this time - a little less aloof than the guy I'd seen the previous two times. It looks like the original operation probably had done it's job - the mesh didn't appear to have come loose or anything, which was a slight relief I suppose - but it looked like the hernia was occurring in a slightly different area. So it sounds like another operation is probably inevitable but I guess it is at least slightly reassuring to hear it ought to be an incremental thing, rather than just redoing exactly the same thing again.
Went back to work after that, but was feeling decidedly out of sorts and it was a pretty unproductive day. Went for a pub lunch with my new team members to get to know them a bit better etc. The usual end-of-the-week beer and pizza thing was a very brief affair today as no-one I knew was hanging around for more than 20 minutes or so.
So I trundled off home somewhat disgruntled. I decided on a whim to try out the local's pub near our flat that we have always avoided, despite having lived there now for over 2 years. I discovered we hadn't really been missing much, and headed home after a short while there.
Arranged to meet up with Chie back at Victoria with the vague plan of going somewhere for dinner. I really wanted to go to my favourite place this evening - Oliveto - but getting in any time around 7 or 8 on a Friday is nigh on impossible. So I took Chie on a brief tour of some of my favourite Belgravia pubs to fill in the time - starting off with the Horse and Groom and then the Grenadier.
We were eventually able to get a table at Oliveto at 9:30, and I think it was definitely worth the wait. Started off with a nice simple penne dish in a very rich tomatoey / basilly sauce (and I think Chie had something involving crab meat), then we shared a Pizza Caprino (goat's cheese and aubergine - although both are quite subtle). The pizza was just incredibly fantastic. So good it made me want to cry. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
We went home after that. Like the previous evening it seemed I had been successfully cheered up - at least temporarily - by a combination of good food and drink.
- Okonomiyaki and Sake
- [Thursday 21st May]
I had started to feel a bit down in the dumps towards the end of this week. Probably just another of my periodic malaises. It seemed to be caused by a combination of issues at work and frustration about the prospect of probably having to go for surgery again later this year. That mixed with a general sense of "what is the point of it all?".
I was somewhat cheered up, albeit only temporarily, by dinner tonight though. Chie made okonomiyaki, which was particularly good on this occasion, and all the better for being accompanied by some very nice sake.
- [Wednesday 20th May]
Rather superbly, Robin had been invited to a function at Downing Street this evening. As he'd be coming into London specially for that, but it was only for a couple of hours, we'd arranged to meet up afterwards and go for dinner.
I headed over to Whitehall straight from work, as it's a reasonably short walk from my office. The sky was rather magnificent this evening and I managed to get a couple of very nice pictures of the Houses of Parliament on my way past.
Whilst waiting for Robin I tried out The Westminster Arms, one that had been on my to do list for some time, but I'd never quite got around to going to. It was actually rather nice inside.
I then proceeded on from there to the Red Lion where I'd arranged to meet Robin. I had a very pleasant half hour or so standing outside there, enjoying the lovely early evening sky over Westminster, and taking advantage of having the Internets at my fingertips on my Android phone.
Once I'd met up with Robin, I decided it would be in keeping with the Parliamentary theme of the evening to dine at Shepherd's, which was sort of on the way back to the flat from Whitehall, and is apparently quite popular with people from Parliament. I can't say I thought the food was particularly wonderful considering the prices, and I particularly remember the notably naff side salad (iceberg lettuce, cucumber with the edges cut off and cress) but I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere in there, which is just how I'd hoped it would be.
- Bangers and Mash
- [Tuesday 19th May]
Not much to report today either. Made a very lazy bangers and mash for dinner, without all the usual niceties like onion gravy etc (just used very standard gravy granules). Despite that it was actually quite nice.
- [Monday 18th May]
Vera headed back to South Wales this morning, and the weekend was generally hailed as a success.
Completely out of the blue, I had a call from Tom towards the end of the morning today, saying he was near to my office and at a loose end. So he popped in for a while, we had a coffee and he also stayed for lunch, which made for a great opportunity to have a chin wag and catch up.
Made a curry in the evening for dinner which I accompanied with the deliciously refreshing can of Asahi Aqua Blue Chie had brought back from Japan, by special request (see picture). That's about it really.
- Day out in London with Vera
- [Sunday 17th May]
A day out in London with Vera, starting with Sunday lunch at the Black Friar, then a walk over the Millenium Bridge to the Tate Modern, followed by a boat trip along the Thames, and afternoon tea and a wander around the Turner exhibition at the Tate Britain.
See the picture for more details!
- Hampton Court
- [Saturday 16th May]
A day out at Hampton Court Palace with Vera, Adrian, Liz and the kids. See the pictures for more details!
- Vera Comes to London
- [Friday 15th May]
Owing to a complicated series of family related circumstances, somewhat at the last minute it turned out that Vera would be coming to stay with us for the weekend. Robin dropped her off just after lunchtime, and I'd taken the rest of the day off work to keep her company.
We didn't do much in the afternoon - just stayed in the flat and had a few cups of tea - I think they'd had a somewhat long and difficult journey to get to London in the morning so Vera was quite keen on just staying put.
In the evening, when Chie got home from work, the three of us went out to our local tapas place for dinner.
- [Thursday 14th May]
Erm.... don't remember much.
- [Wednesday 13th May]
Chie was feeling a bit cheesed off with her job so I proposed going out for dinner in the evening in an attempt to cheer her up a bit. She was however overcome with one of her frequent bouts of frugality, and I could only persuade her to go to Nando's. Not exactly haut cuisine, but Chie likes the fact you're not expected to tip in there (tipping is a completely alien concept in Japan, and Chie can't understand why they don't just include it in the price).
- Curry and a The Pub Crawl That Maths Planned
- [Tuesday 12th May]
The chap who was my first manager (I'm now moving onto my fourth!) when I started at the current company is still closely involved with the work of my (former!) team, and so makes regular visits to London. He was here this week, and as has become the tradition, at least one night during his stay, we go out for a curry with him. In the absence of any other ideas we fell back to the default venue - Masala Zone.
It was quite a large group this time, and I was sat at the opposite end of the table so we didn't really get a chance to talk - and as he'd only arrived this morning he was quite jetlagged and was keen to get back to his hotel straight after dinner. So instead we arranged to have lunch a bit later on in the week.
Some of the rest of us decided as the night was still young we'd like to have a couple of drinks, and I jumped on the opportunity to tick off a few more pubs I haven't been to yet in central London.
We started off at The Clachan, which I can't pretend I really liked all that much (and I'm not really sure why the usually very reliable pubs.com featured it) - it struck me as a pretty generic city centre pub with the usual irritating trappings (fruit machines, music, etc). From there we proceeded to The Guinea, which I'd been to before, but one of my colleagues hadn't. I was much happier here. Finally we rounded off the evening at The Punch Bowl, of Madonna and Guy Richie fame, which I rather liked - it is actually a genuine pub still, it didn't strike me as incredibly expensive or particularly snotty despite the rather well heeled clientele in there. In fact if anything those well to do patrons really added something to this pub - it was rather nice to be surrounded by glamorous and well dressed people for a change.
I was particularly pleased as this evening's pub selection was planned at least partly with the assistance of my current side project. Whilst I'm still not quite ready to officially "launch" it, I think you probably have a good idea by now of what it's all about. At the weekend I had implemented the algorithm to determine the great circle distance between two GPS coordinates, which had helped me this evening to ascertain that these three pubs, although in quite different districts of central London, were actually within a fairly short walk of each other. There are lots of pubs in London, and lots of web apps will already show you pubs near to where you're currently located. If you want to spend the evening hopping between a series of mediocre pubs with very short walks inbetween, then that's fine. If, like me, you don't mind (or even actively enjoy) a slightly longer stroll between pubs to get to somewhere you're actually going to like, then it seems like something else is probably called for.
There was something deeply satisfying about being able to apply sines, cosines and arc cosines to determine where to have a beer.
- Starting the New Project
- [Monday 11th May]
I made a start on the new project at work today - I think my transfer is not actually quite 100% officially approved yet, but it seemed like most people were already considering it a done deal, and I didn't particularly feel like dragging it out any longer.
So it's really great to have a fresh set of challenges and all that, and it's also good that I'm working on something people may actually have heard of now! So I'm generally feeling very good about work again at the moment.
There is a slight downside though - I like to think I had built up a good reputation for myself with the previous project, and as I'll now be working in a completely different area and with completely different people, I sort of have to start all over again from scratch. So I'm really hoping I can churn out something worthy of recognition in my first few weeks on the new project.
Went out after work for just one (literally) quick drink with a couple of people from what I suppose I ought to start calling my former team. I suppose this is the other downside of my transfer - I do hope moving to the new project is not going to mean an end to social activities with these guys, as there are a few people on the team I've grown quite fond of, and I really rather enjoy our occasional after work drinks. My new desk will be just a stone's throw away (or regrettably as is often the case in my office a nerf gun fire away) from my old desk, so hopefully I won't suddenly become forgotten about.
Chie made dinner this evening, similar to yesterday's dinner it was a combination of more or less ready made food from Marks (in this case mushroom tortelloni) combined with some reheated leftovers from a previous properly home cooked meal (the pasta sauce from Saturday) to make us feel a bit less slothful about eating what are almost tantamount to ready meals.
- Sunday with Chie
- [Sunday 10th May]
Spent the day having "quality time" with Chie to make up for the two-and-a-bit weeks we hadn't seen each other while she was in Japan. It pretty much fell into the normal pattern of a typical weekend day for us - got up late, pottered around in the flat a bit in the morning, then went out in the afternoon for a combination of a bit of a walk and a bit of shopping. Today we decided to head over to King's Road, on foot in fact. Once there we were a mass of indecision about where to have lunch - we actually went and sat down in one place then got up again and left, when we got the distinct impression it was overpriced and pretty naff looking - having had a number of very disappointing dining experiences over the years I think we're now getting pretty good at predicting when and where they're going to happen.
So instead we just went to Marks and Spencer and bought food for a picnincky sort of lunch as well as something for dinner. We sat and ate our lunch on the Chelsea embankment, close to the Albert Bridge. Not quite as nice at it sounds - we were effectively sitting next to a very busy main road (!) - but still the view was quite pleasant and we were hungry by this point so didn't care. We meandered back home flat from there by way of Battersea Park, which was quite nice, albeit a bit windy and dusty today, so we were continually stopping to try and fish bits of debris out of our eyes.
Back at home in the evening we had a very lazy meal for dinner, consisting mainly of ready prepared Marks and Spencer products. I have to admit I rather like their roast potatoes. As a small tip of the hat to proper cooking I reheated the vegetable stew I'd made the other night to go with the other bits and pieces. It was actually quite nice.
- Chie Returns
- [Saturday 9th May]
Chie came back from Japan in the evening today, which meant I spent most of the daytime tidying the flat in preparation.
She arrived with the usual suitcase full of omiyage (souvenirs) and assorted Japanese foodstuffs. Including a can of Asahi Aqua Blue, by special request. It's a sort of fake beer, called Happoshu. Asahi do a range of these, and the blue themed can contains seaweed extracts. From an objective point of view it's actually probably quite horrid - I'm sure any real ale buff would immediately turn their nose up at it - but it has a sort of nostaglic / sentimental attachment for me to my time in Japan, and I rather like it.
I made a spaghetti bolognese (which Lorenzo has recently proclaimed doesn't exist in Italy) for dinner. Inevtiably the jet lag caught up on Chie, and she was asleep not long after we finished eating, bless her.
- Doctors and A New Project
- [Friday 8th May]
Went to the doctor first thing this morning to get them to prod my stomach a bit, and got a referral for yet another scan. Alas it seems like the hernia is back, which could mean having to go in for another operation at some point. Bugger.
Still, having got that out of the way I actually started to feel a bit better today, and with the aid of some regular off-the-shelf painkillers was quite fit to go back to work this morning.
On a more positive note, it sounds like I may finally have a new project to move to - possibly even starting as early as next week - and it's in an area I'm personally really interested in. Even though I'm staying with the same company, and will be in the same office, it'll probably be the biggest career change I've had to date - everything I've done so far has been at least loosely connected with TV, but assuming all goes to plan, as of next week I'll be in a completely different area - to do with maps, location based services and a hint of social networking.
Tonight was my last evening by myself before Chie returned from Japan, so in a fit of geekish sloth I ordered in a pizza and devoured it in front of the computer whilst working on my current pet project (which I'll hopefully reveal at some point in the near future). It was very nice indeed.
- Stomach Pain
- [Thursday 7th May]
Only managed a half day at work today - for the past few weeks I've began to suspect my hernia is coming back again, and it was particularly uncomfortable today. It made it very difficult to concentrate, and eventually I just gave up and went home.
Not much else to report really - spent the remainder of the day being very lazy at home, and feeling somewhat sorry for myself. Had an extremely lazy dinner - some Quorn burgers, some bits of semi-stale bread, and a tin of baked beans.
- [Wednesday 6th May]
Went out for a couple of celebratory drinks after work as a couple of the guys on the team had been promoted. Although I wasn't in the most celebratory of moods myself and additionally seemed to be a bit off my beer - or perhaps I just had a couple of bad pints - but it seemed to have lost its appeal somehow.
Went home and had pasta for dinner, and in an attempt to cheer myself up I put far more cheese on it than I probably should have done. It was, however, very nice.
- Not Much To Report
- [Tuesday 5th May]
Back at work today after the long weekend, managed to avoid any noticeable hangover despite the previous day's somewhat boozy activities.
Decided a quiet evening in and an early night was probably called for, having had three fairly full days over the weekend, with a few early starts. For dinner I made a vegetable stew, cooked with fino sherry, and served with crusty bread, which was quite nice.
- West London Pub Crawl
- [Monday 4th May]
Got a fairly early train back from Abergavenny this morning, in time to meet up with Andy around lunchtime for another in our series of London pub crawls. This time it was West London's turn. See the map or the pictures for more details.
View West London Pub Crawl in a larger map
- Croft Castle and Herefordshire Villages
- [Sunday 3rd May]
A very pleasant day out with Vera and Robin - Robin had the inspired idea to head to Herefordshire and visit a few picturesque "black and white villages" (i.e. villages with lots of timber frame / wattle and daub houses), and also take in Croft Castle on the way.
See the pictures for more details!
- Saturday in Abergavenny
- [Saturday 2nd May]
Following some decidedly unsubtle hints from Vera I decided to spend the weekend in Abergavenny. Not wanting to have to struggle with a million other Londoners getting away for the bank holiday weekend on the Friday night I decided to go this morning instead.
Robin picked me up from the station in Newport, and from there we headed to The Wheatsheaf Inn in Llanhennock where we met up with Robert for a "snifter" as my uncle calls it (I understand this to mean a quick drink) and a bite to eat for lunch. We then headed on to Abergavenny.
Spent the afternoon having lots of cups of tea and chatting with Vera.
In the evening we met up with Robert again, and the four of us went out for dinner at a restaurant called The Charthouse near to Abergavenny. The food wasn't bad, but seemed a bit overpriced for what it was. Anyway, a pleasant evening nonetheless.
- End of the Week
- [Friday 1st May]
The usual end-of-the-week beer and pizza thing was particullarly jovial today - not sure why but everyone seemed in a very sociable mood, and we stayed until nearly 10 o' clock. We then followed this with a late but nonetheless fantastic meal, at Oliveto undoubtedly my favourite Italian restaurant in London, and very conveniently just around the corner from my office.
- Quiet night in
- [Thursday 30th April]
Quiet night in. Watched the final episode of 80 Trades Around the World. What an interesting man Conor Woodman is - I have really enjoyed this series.
- North of Hyde Park Pub Crawl
- [Wednesday 29th April]
Went for a pub crawl with Andy around Edgware Road - a fabulous night out, I barely stopped laughing the whole evening. Tonight's pubs:
The Monkey Puzzle
Fatoush on Edgeware Road for dinner
The Windsor Castle
The Duke of Wellington
View Marylebone (Uzbekistan) Pub Crawl in a larger map
- Taking over the World
- [Tuesday 28th April]
Out for a couple of beers with a friend from work, discussing plans we are hatching to take over the world. After a couple of pubs his girlfriend joined us and we went to a dim sum place for dinner.
- More Geocoding
- [Monday 27th April]
Moussaka for dinner. Bit more work on my side project for the remainder of the evening.
- [Sunday 26th April]
I have a new side project I've started working on in my spare time, which occupied most of the day today. This part of development relies heavily on geocoding, and I have to say I'm mightily impressed with Google's geocoding API, plus of course the maps API itself.
- [Saturday 25th April]
After 48 hours without leaving the flat I was feeling better today, so went out to get some fresh air and do a bit of shopping. I popped into Fortnum and Mason for a bit of cathartic extravagance, also went to a book shop where I bought a new book about London pubs. Went by way of Waitrose on the way home. Fresh pasta for dinner.
- Off Sick
- [Friday 24th April]
Was feeling really pretty crappy with my cold so took the day off work today.
- [Thursday 23rd April]
Chie flew off to Japan today. I only managed a half day at work then went home sick. Watched 80 Trades Around the World in the evening, fittingly he was in the Far East this time.
- Chateau Musar
- [Wednesday 22nd April]
Last night with Chie before she went off to Japan. I wanted to give her a good send off, so walked to Knightsbridge after work to go to Noura, a Lebanese food shop, to buy foul moudamas, houmous, Lebanese bread and a half bottle of Chateau Musar 1995. It was all very nice.
- Beer in Belgravia
- [Tuesday 21st April]
Went for an after work beer in Belgravia with a couple of guys from work. As it was a nice day we fancied somewhere where we could drink outside, and Kinnerton Street provided the perfect venues - The Wilton Arms and the Nag's Head.
- [Monday 20th April]