Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
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- Recent Entries:
The Most Expensive Tin of Beans Ever
Lunch at the Wheatsheaf
Sunday in Abergavenny
Saturday in Abergavenny
Burrito by Buckingham Palace
Fish Free Prawns
Afternoon Tea with Erika and Grandma
Erika meets Rob, Kate and Felix
- [Saturday 24th November 2012]
Attempted to make the most of a rather wet and dreary Saturday today, and rather stubbornly went into the centre despite not having any particular need to. We got the tube to Tottenham Court Road, and decided to try Govinda's for lunch - it's a vegetarian and mostly Indian restaurant ran by the Hare Krishnas. That had definitely put me off before - I had visions of them being a bit preachy - but actually it was fine. So I can assure you we haven't converted to a new religion, but we did have some tasty chilli paneer (which was pretty fiery, and consequently I regretted later on in the day).
From there we headed to Chinatown by way of Milk Bar, a coffee shop, where appropriately enough we fed Erika. I picked up a few things for dinner in the Chinese supermarket, and from there we did a bit more shopping on Regent's Street, and at Fortnum and Mason (tea and mince pies!) before heading home.
- [Friday 23rd November 2012]
Put in a brief appearance at TGIF today before heading home for dinner - knocked up a simple spaghetti bolognese.
- The Most Expensive Tin of Beans Ever
- [Thursday 22nd November 2011]
The latter half of this week had been very quiet at work thanks to Thanksgiving - I enjoy that lull in my inbox every year.
In the evening we decided to go out for Lebanese food, and thought we'd try eating at the Noura Deli in Knightsbridge (we've been to the shop a few times, but usually if we want a sit down meal we'd go to the Noura in Belgravia instead). It was a bit of a disappointment to be honest - I'm fairly sure I saw them taking the foul medames out of a tin. Whilst I buy the tinned ones myself occasionally, and actually quite like them, I was quite miffed at seeing this in a restaurant where they're effectively charging a ten times markup for opening a tin, heating up the contents, and drizzling a bit of olive oil on top. I tried to politely quiz them on this but the waiter was pretty vague and evasive. I don't think we'll bother eating there again.
- [Wednesday 21st November 2012]
I went for an impromptu and quick drink after work with Iain, to the Duke of Wellington in Belgravia, before hotfooting it home for 7. Japanese curry for dinner.
Bath night for Erika tonight (we've got into the habit of giving her a bath every other day). Today's pictures were taken after her bath, and I attempted to give her a bit of a side parting whilst brushing her hair. It made her look a bit like a miniature middle aged man.
- [Tuesday 20th November 2012]
Erika had been really good whilst we were away over the weekend, but pretty much as soon as we got home on Monday evening she started to get a bit unhappy, and that was repeated every evening this week. We think she has reflux now - having more or less got over the colic she'd been suffering previously she seems to be pretty much straight onto the next common baby ailment.
- Lunch at the Wheatsheaf
- [Monday 19th November 2012]
We hadn't wanted it to be too much of a flying visit (and also never much like travelling on Sundays, when the trains always seem much slower) so I'd taken today off work. So we had another leisurely morning at Vera and Robin's house - Robert popped in for a coffee - before heading out for a drive through the countryside and lunch at a country pub. Apparently lots of them in the area are closed on Mondays, but I suggested we try the Wheatsheaf in Llanhennock, partly motivated by the fact I'd been daydreaming about their wonderfully simple rustic Ploughman's Lunch. As an added bonus it took us most of the way to Newport, so we could cut one leg off our return train journey.
The Wheatsheaf is a lovely little unspoilt pub, and although the mostly elderly crowd of regulars who were also having lunch there looked a bit apprehensive on our arriving with a baby, she was pretty quiet the whole way through, and they were a friendly bunch - it seemed a bit like everyone knew everyone else. They serve really genuine home cooked food, a million miles from the banal homogenous pub grub which regrettably blights a lot of London pubs, now that so many of them are owned by a small handful of chains. It was a lovely way to round off our weekend in South Wales.
From there, Robin drove us to Newport station, and we got on a train just after 3. The train was pretty quiet on the way back, and we ended up spreading out over four seats. As the train pulled away I was filled with an enormous sense of satisfaction that we'd actually managed it. There had definitely been a sense of something lacking before Erika had been able to meet Vera, and so I was delighted that she'd finally been officially welcomed into the world by the head of the family. It was a really serene journey home, Erika slept most of the way through, and we felt so relaxed and confident that we decided to just get the tube home from Paddington, and despite it apparently being rush hour that was just fine too.
- Sunday in Abergavenny
- [Sunday 18th November 2012]
Last night was Erika's first night to sleep away from home and we were quite relieved that she seemed to sleep pretty contentedly - just waking up every few hours for a feed as she does at home. Louise had lent us a travel cot which she has at her house for visiting babies, and Erika didn't seem to mind it at all.
In the morning, after croissants for breakfast, we took Vera out for a stroll around the estate, which fulfilled not only the requirement for her daily exercise, but also got us out from under Robin's feet so he could prepare for the afternoon's festivities.
So in the afternoon was the big event of the weekend - Louise, Ian, Bec, Dave and baby Jessica came to visit. Not only was this the first time for all of them to meet Erika, but also the first time for me and Chie to meet baby Jessica - we'd been to Abergavenny in June but it hadn't quite worked out then for one reason or another. They're only four and a bit months apart but compared to Erika she seems huge!
In addition to lunch (a very nice buffet put together by Robin, and some excellent desserts Louise brought - including the famous pavlova) there were of course lots of photo opportunities, and although we didn't get one big group shot of everyone, we did get a few smaller group shots which were really nice. In particular I was really keen to get a picture of Vera with two of her grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. It was really special for us all to be in the same place at the same time.
The evening was very quiet by comparison, after everyone had left - we had a light supper of some fresh pasta and watched some Sunday evening TV.
- Saturday in Abergavenny
- [Saturday 17th November 2012]
Although quite a lot of my family had been to London to meet Erika, Vera doesn't really feel up to those sorts of long journeys any more, and so the South Wales contingent were yet to meet her. We'd wanted to go much earlier but had found the thought of the journey - with Erika - pretty daunting ourselves. It wasn't just a case of managing the logistics of getting on and off trains with all the additional luggage babies necessitate, but in addition she still needs to feed every two hours, and until recently had often been quite gripey between feeds. The thought of all the looks from a tightly packed carriage of fellow passengers as we tried to calm a screaming baby had definitely put us off until now. However, our trial run as far as Reading two weeks ago had gone pretty well, the gripe situation is much better than it was, and overall we're just a lot more confident and relaxed about being in charge of a baby in public. So we decided now was the time to make the trip, and have Erika meet the rest of my family.
The journey had all been pretty well planned - I'd ended up phoning First Great Western to book specific seats, near the disabled loo, where there was a bit more space (and I'd assumed it would be easier if we needed to change a nappy onboard). We'd gone back and forth on whether or not to take the buggy, but in the end decided to just go with the baby bjorn and her car seat, and that all worked out really well. We got a taxi to Paddington, the taxi driver (who had three kids of his own) was a very nice man, and shared with us some of his parenting wisdom. The train journey from London to Newport was fine really - it was pretty full, and we only had two booked seats, so as Erika occupied one in her car seat, me and Chie had to take turns to sit in the other one - but there were some of those little fold down seats nearby that we used instead. Erika only really got a bit grumbly when we changed trains at Newport station - which, if you've ever been to Newport station, you can probably sympathise with.
Robin met us at the station, and we then had a quiet but lovely afternoon and evening at Vera and Robin's house, with plenty of time for Erika to get to know her great uncle and great grandmother.
I'm very pleased to report that Vera, who turned 93 in August, is still in fine form - Robin popped out to do a bit of shopping just before dinner, and as he was leaving suggested to Vera, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that if she wanted to lend a hand she could peel some sprouts. Vera replied wryly that she wouldn't be able to do that as she was busy looking after the baby.
- [Friday 16th November 2012]
I was back in the office today, although Chie had a friend come to see her in the daytime, with another baby, thus the pictures. In the evening we had bangers and mash, with the last of the cavolo nero for dinner.
- Day Off
- [Thursday 15th November 2012]
We had various baby related errands to attend to today - a nursery viewing in the morning, and then a couple of doctors appointments in the afternoon, so I decided to just take the whole day off. After the nursery viewing (this is the third I've seen now, and the fourth Chie's seen) I dashed to Mayfair to fit in a quick hair cut at Geo F. Trumpers, and then went for a brief stroll down St, James's Street. I've been reading a book on the Gentleman's Clubs of London recently, and wanted to actually see some of the exteriors of some of them - most of them they don't really have signs on the outside or anything, so you'd easily walk past without knowing what they are.
I got back to the flat about 1pm, and then looked after Erika for the afternoon as Chie popped out for a couple of medical appointments - there seems to be an endless stream of these after having a baby! I took Erika out for a little stroll in her buggy while Chie was out, round the gardens, and the park in another nearby square. That was rather nice.
In the evening Chie had a friend coming to visit, so I was given a few hours off from parenting duties, and went out for a pint with Al. We met in the Lamb and Flag, and from there proceded to the Coach and Horses (the Covent Garden one) and the Harp.
- Burrito by Buckingham Palace
- [Wednesday 14th November 2012]
Met up with Chie and Erika for lunch today. We got burritos from my favourite burrito place, and took them to the corner of St. James's Park nearest to Buckingham Palace to eat them. We ended up eating standing up as the grass was a bit too wet to sit on, but it was oddly quite pleasant nonetheless - it's always really nice to be able to see Erika in the daytime on a weekday, even if she was just mostly dozing in her buggy.
- Fish Free Prawns
- [Tuesday 13th November 2012]
I was determined to have something a bit different for dinner, so scoured Sainsbury's for some interesting ingredients as I often do, expecting to be disappointed, when I came across a new Linda McCartney product - Fish Free King Prawns. I'm always keen to give things like this a go, and was pleased to also find Cavolo Nero - my favourite brassica, and a pesto in a jar from Sacla which was suitable for vegetarians. So on arriving home I combined these things together, with some fresh trofie pasta I'd bought a while back, to make a dinner which ended up being reminiscent of a lunch we'd had in Venice (or to be precise a combination of our two respective lunches). I'm not sure if pesto with "seafood" is really the done thing, but seeing as these "prawns" had of course never seen the sea, it didn't really seem to matter. It was a very good combination and I was very pleased with the end result.
- [Monday 12th November 2012]
Just one picture of Erika in her car seat.
- Dim Sum
- [Sunday 11th November 2012]
We headed to Victoria Station just after midday, hoping we might be able to buy train tickets for our upcoming trip to South Wales. I'd wanted better booking options than we had online, so I could pick some particular seats, as I thought we might be taking the buggy, and very few seats on the new First Great Western trains have any space alongside them for a buggy. Or much space at all for that matter. Apparently though they just have the same limited booking options at actual station ticket offices (at least, at Victoria). So that wasn't very successful.
From there, we hopped on a bus in the direction of the centre, which delivered us to Shaftesbury Avenue, where Chie had the bright idea of going for dim sum for lunch. So we went to our favourite place in Chinatown - Joy King Lau - where they're very accommodating to people with babies, and put us on a table in the corner with space for the buggy alongside. The dimsum is always good here but it seemed particularly excellent today, perhaps partly because the staff had been so nice to us, and Erika dozed happily beside our table.
From there we headed to John Lewis on Oxford Street to look at cots and mattresses. In superbly Mr Bean Style (you may remember him trying out frying pans for size in a shop by pulling a large fish out of his pocket) we found the best way to get a sense of size was to just put Erika in them.
- [Saturday 10th November 2012]
Went to an "nearly new" sale of baby stuff in the early afternoon, which turned out to just be an attempt to make "second hand" sound a bit more appealing. It was an NCT organised thing which was a bit baffling, because the NCT course attendees we've met are all terribly middle class, and not the sort of people who'd buy other people's used goods - especially not in their local area, where they might be seen doing so. So I think it ended up more like middle class people offloading their used baby stuff onto not-so-middle-class people, and the whole event had a bit of a weird air to it correspondingly.
As though that wasn't a strong enough reminder that the class system is still very much alive and well in England, we'd decided to follow that up by taking a look at the Independent Schools Show, which conveniently was being held just over the river in Battersea Park. Although it's hopefully too early to have to start thinking seriously about schools, apparently we do need to start thinking seriously about nurseries as lots of them have long waiting lists, and the show featured some nurseries as well as the schools. It was a bizarre event - a sort of trade fair for public schools, wherein tellingly the normal banal refreshments stand you'd expect at these sorts of events was a Champagne bar, and the likes of Tatler were also in residence. We got a couple of brochures and spoke to a couple of people but didn't stay too long - I have to admit for all the time I've spent in London living the high life and imagining I'm some kind of minor aristocrat, the world of paid-for schooling was still quite alien to me.
Whilst in Battersea Park, we decided to pop into the Gondola Cafe, which I found charmingly naff.
Erika still seemed a bit restless in the early evening, and Chie seemed to want a bit of a break, so I took her out for another stroll, and ended up getting as far as Parliament Square. I took her for a quick pint at the Westminster Arms before wheeling her back home again. I'd stopped off en route to give her a good look at Westminster Abbey, which I'm sure she appreciated.
- Afternoon Tea with Erika and Grandma
- [Friday 9th November 2012]
Mum came to visit London to see Erika again this afternoon, so I took the afternoon off. Chie came to my office at lunchtime with Erika, and after a quick lunch she headed off to have her hair cut, and I had a lovely stroll with Erika in her buggy past Buckingham Palace, up through St. James's to Fortnum and Mason, where I met Mum at 3pm.
We had afternoon tea in the gallery which was rather lovely, and apart from a few grumbles (she was very hungry all day today) Erika was pretty good throughout. There weren't really any other babies there, but the staff were quite happy to bring out a bowl of hot water so I could warm a bottle for Erika - and being Fortnum and Mason it was one of those rather nice decorative soup bowls you'd have French Onion soup in. We had a glass of Camel Valley Brut with our teas too - it was all very civilised.
After tea, mum did a quick bit of shopping in Fortnums then we got a taxi back to the flat. Surprisingly Erika also needed a second bottle before Chie got home, not long after 5. She was a very hungry little girl today!
In the evening we went out to pick up some takeaway from a nearby Indian place. The food itself was a bit hit and miss, and as is often the case we had to eat in shifts as Erika needed a bit of attention, but still it made for a pleasant evening.
- [Thursday 8th November 2012]
Not much to report really. We met up after I finished work and went to Sainsbury's with Erika, then back to the house to make dinner. I made a wintery red wine stew, with quite a lot of hearty root vegetables (potatoes, swede, parnsips and carrots) and some fake soy meat stuff Chie's Mum had brought from Japan which had a really good texture.
- [Wednesday 7th November 2012]
Florian was visiting the London office from Zurich today which was nice on two fronts as (A) he brought a present for Erika from Switzerland and (B) I had the chance to go out for a quick pint with him in the evening (as conveniently Chie had a friend coming round this evening). It was very nice to have a chance to catch up with Florian. As it happens, just over a year ago, before I had any idea I was about to become a father, I was visiting Zurich for work, and chatted with Florian a bit about parenthood (he has a little boy of his own). I had made the point that parents always do a very good job of complaining how hard having kids is - all the sleepless nights and everything - but seldom if ever tried to give a coherent explanation of what was actually good about it. Florian didn't really present a very strong argument at the time, as far as I recall I think he just sort of smiled wistfully. He reminded me of that conversation this evening with a friendly air of "I told you so".
- [Tuesday 6th November 2012]
Back to the doctors again today (in fact it would be three days running this week!) as we wanted the doctor to check Erika's breathing - she tends to snort and splutter a bit overnight and we thought we'd better have it looked at. Apparently nothing to worry about - the doctor told us it's likely just a bit of a blocked nose, as her nostrils are still so small they very easily get bunged up. Babies can apparently breathe through their mouths but they hate doing it!
Not much else to report really.
- [Monday 5th November 2012]
Took Erika for her eight week vaccinations around lunchtime today - she was pretty good really - obviously cried at first a bit, but then recovered pretty quickly. I then took her home after that and looked after her for a bit as Chie had another doctors appointment. It's really nice to have an excuse to see Erika in the daytime on a weekday.
Sort of Chinese/Japanese food in the evening - Chie made ma po tofu (a vegetarian version thereof) and a few side dishes. I also bought a bottle of sake, which we (well, mainly I) drank some of heated up - definitely appropriate considering the recent weather.
We ate sitting on the floor of the lounge, with a little table which I think is probably designed for having breakfast in bed, so that Erika could be at the same level as us, and wouldn't feel left out. It felt very Japanese.
- Passport Photo
- [Sunday 4th November 2012]
We're applying for Erika's first passport already (babies need their own these days) as at some point in the not too distant future we want to take her to Japan to meet the rest of the Japanese side of the family. So the main task we set ourselves for today was to get some passport photos done. It was pretty straightforward really.
Later on in the afternoon I headed out again, just me and Erika, as Chie needed a bit of a break. It was Chie's half birthday today so we bought a bunch of flowers and some profiteroles for her, which seemed to cheer her up a bit.
- Erika meets Rob, Kate and Felix
- [Saturday 3rd November 2012]
We decided to take Erika on her first trip out of London today, to visit Rob, Kate and Felix in Reading. It also seemed like a good opportunity to do a sort of partial trial run for taking Erika to Abergavenny to meet Vera and Robin, to see how she responded to being on the train for a longer time than she had been so far. She was pretty good in both directions, but I was a bit miffed at First Great Western who have over the years squeezed more and more seats into their carriages, and unlike the suburban trains around London (and even the tube) there doesn't seem to be anywhere you can sit down with a space beside you for the buggy. So we ended up standing in the end of the carriage the whole time.
Shortly after arriving in Reading we met up with Rob and Felix which was rather a special moment. We've known each other for 17 years (!) and it was hard to imagine back then we'd one day be walking through the streets of Reading with buggies with kids in. I also realised how remiss we'd been for not making the effort to go out to Reading to meet Rob and co before now - we hadn't seen Felix since we met up in St. Ives over two years ago. Unsurprisingly he'd changed a huge amount since then!
We stopped off at Wagamama to pick up some takeaway for lunch, and then headed to Rob, Kate and Felix's house where we spent the afternoon, which was rather lovely.
We headed back to London as it was starting to get dark, stopping off briefly at Paddington station to do a bit of shopping and take a picture with Erika and Paddington Bear.
After a quick dinner of spaghetting bolognese, we headed back out again in the evening to watch the fireworks display at Battersea Park. As always we didn't pay to get in, and instead just stood the other side of Chelsea bridge from there, which was a pretty good vantage point.
- [Friday 2nd November 2012]
A few more random pictures of Erika. Actually the first two of these were taken by Chie in the daytime while I was at work - I rather like the one of Erika Skyping to her Grandma in Japan. Rather sweetly, since Yoko-san has been back in Japan she said she's missed her time in London - I assume she mostly means she misses spending time with Erika and Chie but I like to think despite the fact we were all squeezed into our little apartment that she actually had a fun time in London - despite the rigours of looking after the baby we managed to hav a few nice meals and trips out while she was here.
When I got back home from work this morning both Chie and Erika had dozed off on the sofa, which was rather lovely.
- Baby Clothes
- [Thursday 1st November 2012]
It's November already!
As the picture attests, we let Erika try on my tweed cap this evening - it of course far too big but I rather like the ensemble, combined with a bib and the new baby grow we bought in Hampstead last Sunday she has a bit of a cowboy look about her. I think we've actually been pretty frugal with clothes for Erika so far (this is mostly Chie's influence, I hasten to add!) and have received a lot of hand-me-downs from Chie's friends who have kids.... but I do completely understand how some parents go a bit crazy on baby clothes. I would really love to get something for her in tweed, especially given the wintery weather we've been having recently.