Monday, September 30, 2002
It's a small world after all
The 2nd floor of Marusho, our local supermarket, has been turned into a 'world import store'. Which basically means they stock teabags, proper biscuits in proper packets (ie not in a plastic wrapper containing a plastic tray containing a disappointing four individually wrapped biscuits), a few western-style toiletries (dove shower gel and aquafresh toothpaste), and baked beans. A good thing, I think. But unfortunately they have marked this expansion by playing 'it's a small world after all' over and over and over and over again. In many different languages. I am afraid to go in, in case I am there when the shop assistants finally crack and gun everybody down (shouting it's not a small world! It's a bloody big one!)

Saturday, September 28, 2002
Two more:
  • tight jeans tucked into knee-high boots. Very Adam Ant
  • calf-length boots with knee-high socks and a short skirt

I'd better go shopping

Thursday, September 26, 2002
There's a brand new dance but I don't know its name
Now it is officially autumn, everybody has put away their summer clothes and got out the winter stuff. Seems odd to me, changing clothes by the calendar rather than by the weather (it was in the 20s again today) but I am enjoying spotting the trends for the new season. I'd better report them now because in a few weeks it will all look normal to me.
  • Fisherman's hats are out, big woolly hats are in (yep, even in the sunshine of a September afternoon. Don't want to catch a chill)
  • Boots are cowboy-style in lurid colours, or else furry. I saw some nice emerald-green furry boots yesterday
  • Footless pop socks. Nylon calf-warmers. What are they for?
  • Jumpers, cardies, jackets, woolly tights to be worn at all times. I have no problem with any of these items, they are very sensible when it's cold. But it's not.
  • (My personal favourite so far) Not sure what this is called but I spotted a girl who looked fairly normal in a blouse and short skirt only on her legs she was wearing...well...they appeared, at the top, to be black hold-up stockings with lacey the time you'd looked down her legs to her ankles, they were no longer stocking-like but looked like boot-cut trousers. Hold-up trouser legs.
Am I just getting old?

Just call me Deria
I like my cookery class. I really like it. I like it even more because the people there are so sweet - today I was told that I was a great grater (!) and (as always) they marvelled over how fantastic my Japanese is and told me what a large vocabulary I have (all because I managed to string together 'is there a small plate?'). Japanese ladies are just lovely and are fantastic for your ego. OK it might not be sincere...knowing the words for plate, pumpkin and hot don't really count as fluency...but it makes you feel good. And it's catching, you find yourself telling them how wonderful their English is, how nicely they have cut that carrot, and how they had better dish up the chicken because they are so much better with the chopsticks than you are (that bit's true...)! And then you get to eat a delicious meal: today we made onigiri (rice balls filled with, um, filling - tasty, although I foolishly put cod roe in one of mine, yuk!), tori no kara-age (fried chicken) and kabocha no nimono (squash boiled in soy and sake and whatnot). Mmmm.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002
They're not even nice! Honestly, when you pay through the nose for a potato, you expect perfection, not to have to cut out the manky bits!

Mmm, potatoes
Potatoes. I have 2 observations to make:
1. Potatoes here are stupidly expensive so have turned from a commodity to a luxury (and I haven't even considered buying a courgette since I've been here - they come individually wrapped and cost more than a quid each!). I had intended shepherd's pie for tea until I made the mistake of looking at prices in the supermarket - you'd think I'd have learnt by now, wouldn't you?! So we are the proud owners of three medium-sized potatoes, which cost more than the meat and will therefore have to be the stars of the meal (mums will start saying 'never mind the meat, eat your potatoes'). What to do?
2. I have spotted a gap in the market that is going to make me into a millionaire. I'm giving up editing and setting up a baked-potato van at shibuya crossing. I've not had a proper baked potato since I've been here and I think if I marketed it as a delicious healthy traditional British snack, it would take off in a big way. Mind you, I'd have to charge the earth to cover my overheads, what with the price of potatoes and all...

Right, Tim, I've tracked you down! I wondered who my AZ visitor was and now I hello! Hope you are well, glad you keep popping by, do leave a message any time you feel inspired!

Monday, September 23, 2002
Don't you love 3-day weekends? I have no idea what you are supposed to do to celebrate the autumnal equinox (though it might be something like banging a big drum - see below - or, judging from the fashions I've seen today, getting out and wearing your winter clothes and big boots). We celebrated in our own way: went for a nice Italian meal on Friday night (comedy thing is actually next week - d'oh!). Gym and my readers' group on Saturday (Cameron stayed home and did exciting things like his tax return) - I once again got abuse for being quiet. I'm starting to get a bit tired of it, it's not as though I never say a word, I just seem quiet next to all the noisy opinionated american women! Pah! Stayed in with department store food, wine and Apocalypse Now in the evening. (I hadn't seen it before. It was OK. I don't, however, think it's the best film ever made. Nor do I feel the need to quote it.) Yesterday, we went and walked up Mount Takao. I carefully watched the weather report, which clearly stated that sunday would be dry so of course we didn't take waterproofs or anything. And we didn't need them on the way up - the heavens didn't really open until we reached the summit. Obviously you couldn't see Mount Fuji (does anyone ever actually see it?! I am starting to think it's a myth, made up for children and tourists) and we didn't hang about to try but started down as quick as we could - had to cut through a lovely temple but, again, didn't linger to admire it...then we came across the top station of the cable car so our walk was cut short. It was a nice idea! When we go again we'll go prepared with waterproofs, jumpers and nice dry t-shirts to change into for the hour-long train ride home, just in case.

Today we pottered about Omotesando, looking at lovely antique furniture, buying a street map, then went to see about a boy, which we both really enjoyed; it's a funny film (even though we laughed a good 30 seconds before the subtitle-readers) and nice and British, which we appreciate these days. And, of course, a fantastic soundtrack.

OK, finally, you can see what we did in Seoul here.

Things I love about being in Japan #2 (I think)
Wandering down to the station today on our way to find some breakfast - it being a bank holiday (actually the autumnal equinox. Last weekend was respect the aged day) - we heard a drum banging. Then a troop of small children (aged between about 3 and 6 or so) appeared round a corner, all holding onto a rope, which was pulling a drum, being banged very enthusiastically by a man on one side and a boy on the other. Following them were a gang of slightly older children, struggling to carry a gilt shrine. They were all shouting and blowing whistles, and I have no idea what was going on!

Friday, September 20, 2002
Just a quick message to say that I am still here and I know I've been quiet this's been manic trying to fit all my social engagements (!) and all my work into 4 days - and I've been trying to make a page for our pictures from Seoul, so that's where I've been! Next week promises to be calmer - Monday is a bank holiday but we're not leaving the country this time so hopefully I'll get that Seoul page finished and I'll be back to chat a bit more! I went to an exhibition of gold and brocades from the Silk Road today, which was fab. And I made - I think - a new friend. I went with a newly arrived 'Shell wife' (mutant turtle people) and we got along well. Which is good, it's hard to make friends once you've left school (nobody tells you who to sit next to any more, and you don't get to share felt tips much) and, trust me, as an expat you spend a lot of time with people who you wouldn't exactly choose at home. Not in a good, mind-broadening way (though that as well, I suppose), but in a 'we speak the same language so therefore must be friends' way. I spend more time that I really want to listening to people droning on about subjects that I am really not interested in, and am far too polite to go aaarrrggghhhhh SHUT UP, tear my hair out, and leave. So it's good to meet someone I can just chat naturally with.
We're off to see some comedians from London at our very own Pizza Express tonight though. Yes, there's one in Tokyo. Yay!

Thursday, September 19, 2002
I have just spent a happy morning cutting maple-leaf shapes out of carrot at my 'cookery' class. Japanese cooking is mostly just fancy chopping - today the teacher remembered she has seasonal cutters and, it being officially autumn, maple leaves are where it's at. Very therapeutic.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Mirror mirror on the wall
Thanks to Lisa for the suggestion, we have a picture in the mirror project. Cool, eh?!

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Well, we're back. Things a bit hectic just now (that's the trouble with a weekend away, all the running about you have to do before and after) so I'll tell you about it and put up some pictures soon...I just wanted to say that I am happy again! A big thank you to the people who sent me nice cheering-up messages (and a big pfffllllllfffttttt to those who didn't!)

Thursday, September 12, 2002
Home thoughts from abroad
I got a letter from my Granny yesterday. Which was very nice but unfortunately I just cried! And it's set me up to spend today feeling all snivelly and pathetic. Because I suddenly realised that all my friends and family are 6000 miles away. Six. Thousand. Miles. That's a long way. We can talk on the phone, but not without just enough of a delay that you end up with silences interspersed with everybody talking at once and have to say everything two or three times (silence. chatchatchat...oh sorry. what did you say? I said, what did you say? silence...). And (depending who you are speaking to!) you can spend anything up to half of it going 'no really it doesn't cost that much these days'. And I know that the world is small these days (as people kindly tell me; it doesn't feel small when you're on a 12-hour flight)...and that visitors are coming to see us...and we'll have a trip home next summer...but just at the moment, just today, you all feel very far away.

And another thing! Those of you who come and read this (I know who you are...) then think you've been in touch with me and forget to email...I'd like to know what you're doing as well please! Drop me a line or leave a's easy, you just have to click on 'email me' - at the bottom of the page - or 'comment' - down there at the bottom of this post. See it? Then I'll feel all happy again! What are you up to?

Normal service will resume shortly. i don't want any of you to think that I'm not happy here: I am. I love Japan and Tokyo is just fantastic. I just wish you were all here too! (Though if you were, obviously, I'd want you all to go away again. Our house isn't that big!) It would be surprising indeed if I moved so far away without having any bad days...and I've done pretty well, it's nearly 6 months now and my biggest trauma to date was the hot water/telly breaking down when I felt ill! I'll go and have a cup of tea and some chocolate and pull myself together. We're off to Seoul tomorrow, which is exciting!

Wednesday, September 11, 2002
So proud
I just managed to use a 'te' verb! For those of you who don't speak Japanese, that's the equivalent of using 'I am going' instead of 'I go'. I'll be mistaken for a native in no time! Unfortunately the Boiler Man (for that is who (whom?) I was addressing) did then mistake me, if not for a native, at least for someone who might understand hard Japanese words spoken at a million miles an hour. And he should have known better because he knew me yesterday, when I'd never used a 'te' verb.
(for those of you who do speak Japanese, OK I know it's not very impressive after 6 months of lessons, but bear with me. If it was the wrong thing to say, or there was a better way of saying it, quite frankly I don't want to know about it. Not today - let me enjoy my moment of triumph.)
This is a good thing as I've bitten the bullet and applied for the proficiency test. Hopefully that will provide the necessary motivation to do some homework (instead of messing about

Another expat Lisa left a lovely comment here yesterday. But it's gone. Why is that? gah.

Other people (here and here) have said what I feel today far more eloquently than I ever could. So I'm afraid I'm not going to try...

Tuesday, September 10, 2002
He's gone!
But he's coming back again tomorrow.
But I can go out!
If I do, he'll climb the fence (his miming was impressive).
I can have a shower!
(whatever is he coming back to do?)

I had such lovely plans for today. I was going to work all morning then go to the post office to apply for the language exam, Shibuya to pick up our plane tickets, and then wander about taking arty photos of Tokyoites and stuff. I might even have had a cup of coffee. Instead I have waited all day to have a shower (well, and working too). The boiler man arrived, as planned (only I'd forgotten he was coming so I wasn't washed or dressed or anything, then I had to answer the door in my dressing gown while trying to look terribly alert so that he'd realise I'd actually been up and working for 2 hours - which I had - and just hadn't chosen to dress) only his 'few jobs to tidy up' had somehow mutated into 'replacing the boiler because the one we installed on Saturday was just a temporary one'. Huh? And now it's nearly 5 o'clock and he's still here faffing about, and I want a wash!

Monday, September 09, 2002
All better now. Just a small twinge when I move my head sideways, that's all. Who'd have thought you need your neck so much? It doesn't just sit there holding your head on, you need it for putting in contact lenses, changing channel on the TV, making cups of tea and killing cockroaches. And taking out earrings, undoing shoelaces and standing up from lying down are all impossible with a jippy neck (sp? gippy?). Poor Cameron has had to haul me up so many times this weekend that he now has a sore back! (actually he couldn't haul me, that was too sore. He had to gently lift the cushion that my head was on!).
Anyway, no news today. I'm about to head out for a lovely dinner at the Elephant Cafe with a friend whose hubby is away this week. Their 'delicious present from the mekong river' made a direct entry to my top 10 favourite things to eat. (I have no idea what's in it. Perhaps best that way. Fish. and noodles. and, erm, peppers I think.) It's thundering and lightninging and everything out there - for the 4th evening in a row - but I'll be brave.

Sunday, September 08, 2002
To everyone who has sent me (electronic) tea and sympathy. I feel much more mobile today - might even leave the house! - though, having spent most of the past 36 hours asleep, I do feel a little like I've been hit over the head with a sledgehammer and am not at my most communicative. We have hot water back again too (um. Don't think I mentioned that. Right after the TV died on friday night, the hot water went too. Two men came and looked at the boiler yesterday and said it was dangerous, then went away (!) but then a nice man arrived at 7 o'clock (on a Saturday night!) and spent 1 1/2 hours installing a lovely shiny new boiler. Yay!). And it's stopped raining!

Friday, September 06, 2002
Reasons why cable is better than satellite #1
Cable doesn't disappear just because you are having a little bit of weather, leaving you with no channels but BBCWorld when you are feeling quite poorly and just want to curl* up on the sofa watching buffy/simpsons/malcolm in the middle and NOT NEWS.
*curl in the metaphorical sense. Actually I have to sit bolt upright otherwise I can't move at all...

Heart and Seoul
In other news, we're going to Seoul next weekend because it's a bank holiday here and I found a special offer. (Obviously by the time I rang up, the special offer had sold out. But we're going anyway.) Exciting, eh?! I think it sounds very exotic, though I have to admit I know absolutely nothing about Korea except that, um, there's north bit and a south bit and they (the south) wore red during the world cup and, um, they eat dog (but don't admit it to westerners) and hot pickles and the writing is all lines and circles, that's it. I got a guidebook from the library though so I'll be much better informed by the time we go.

No sleep last night due to intense pain in neck. Am getting through today with a large can of deep heat spray (I don't know if it helps but I like the smell) and two large cocodamol horse tablets every 3 1/2 hours. Just takes the edge off so I can function but it is not a pain-free existence. Cameron suggested I went and got a neck support but I don't know where I would get one of them in the UK even: I am certainly not going to trawl about the Tokyo shops looking for one. I'm propped up on pillows and managing to work and everything (brave soldier. apart from the whinging of course). Somebody tell me something to cheer me up!

Thursday, September 05, 2002
So much for sitting still and not moving my aching muscles yesterday. I sat so still that my neck has now seized up. I can do up and down movement but any slight deviation to the side forces me to stop and make a completely involuntary and quite pathetic little oh! It's probably a good thing that cooking was cancelled (though not good that I didn't find out until I'd battled salarymen, schoolchildren and stickmen to get there) as it would have been tricky. I've tried a hot bath to no avail and am now off to try frozen peas (blackberries actually, but close enough I daresay). Anyone got any good suggestions?

to us, on our wedding anniversary! I'm celebrating by going to a cookery class, and C has gone off to work to celebrate...
Congratulations also to Martyn and Rebecca, who share our anniversary (though they were married about a million years before we even met!) - for their celebration, here's a link to their baby Amy's growing-up weblog and another to Martyn's website. Good if you are interested in protein crystallography and computational chemistry. And who isn't?

Here's a list of links to blogs that didn't enter the guardian 'best of british' competition, courtesy of Tom at

Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Ooh I hurt. Means the yoga must have done some good, right? Am just going to sit at my desk and work quietly with no sudden movements (actually it's virtually impossible to make sudden movements). Might this finally be the incentive needed to learn some vocab? Speaking of which, we have to decide this week whether to put in for the first Japanese proficiency exam. I think it is a bit advanced - you are supposed to have had 150 hours of tuition - but am consoled by it not including any speaking (though how you can claim to be proficient if you can't speak, I can't imagine!). Trouble is, if we don't take it this time we will have to wait a whole year.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002
Holiday snaps
A few of Cameron's nice pictures from Thailand (did somebody say 'business trip'?!):

New term
This week has a real back-to-school feel to it. The humidity has dropped so, although it is still hot, there's an autumnal tang in the air. The kids must be back at school as I haven't been run over by a bike or skated into for a few days. My yoga and cooking classes are starting back up again (I'm not expecting to be able to get out of bed tomorrow). And the subway is once more packed to bursting in the mornings, full of sweaty armpits and sleep-standers hanging onto straps.

sorry. shifted back again. realised all my other linked pages are this way round and it just seemed easier...

Monday, September 02, 2002
Dem bones dem bones
Today was our official weekend - as Cameron didn't get back from Thailand until Sunday morning and I worked on Saturday. I highly recommend week-day weekends, it's so nice knowing everyone else is at work! We went to 'the greatest dinosaur expo 2002' and saw lots of old bones. Very very big ones right down to a teeny dinosaur about the size of a pigeon - very cute indeed.