Thursday, October 31, 2002
Who's there? Someone googled cameron lisa japan, which surely must be someone we know - say hello, don't be shy now...!

here it is. I knew I'd written something about my supermarket. Why wasn't it there yesterday?
Anyway, it's irrelevent now. I just didn't want to be beaten!

coo-ee, Helen!
Don't say I don't do anything for you. Look at my archives! Better?

It seems I'm wrong. It's only we stuck-up English who don't go in for trick-or-treating; Cameron informs me that guising is traditional at halloween in Scotland (though, oddly, he can't remember if he ever went). And now I come to think of it, we often went to the scottish country dancing halloween party for Katy's birthday - witch costumes made of binbags, sticky buns on strings and strip the willow.

PS who remembers this? (Hands up. Come on Suzanne, Katy, I know you do. Caroline?)
we're witches of halloween woo-oo
the ugliest you've ever see woo-oo

does anyone know how it goes after that?
I remember one bonfire night, marching in circles around the sand-filled flowerpot and singing that song, with those green glow-sticks held up so that we really did have green faces. Cool, eh?

it's distinctly chilly here now. We've realised that our heating doesn't have a timer (so one of us will have to hop out of bed and put it on in the mornings - fortunately it is pretty efficient) and dug out our winter jumpers. I've been seen in woolly tights and everything! Still lovely and sunny though, I think Japan winters will be good.
Little to write about today. I popped into the Louis Vuitton shop this morning (as one does...*) and fell in love with a coat. But I'm not thinking about it. Especially since it wasn't priced. How expensive must it be to not be priced in there, where they think nothing of thousand-pound price tags?! I also kind of liked the cat-carrier...but you know, I'd need two...
Speaking of the cats, I think they had a run-in with one of Tokyo's mutant crows this morning. I wouldn't mess with one, they're enormous with big pointy beaks and evil glittering eyes. I heard an almighty screeching and caterwauling; when I got downstairs both cats were inside looking very shaken and with tails like bottlebrushes. Poor things - hopefully they'll have learnt their lesson!
It's halloween today so we're going out (bah humbug). Never a country to be left behind when there's a trend passing, the shops here are halloween crazy. Call me a miserable no-fun brit but I'm not sure I really approve of sending kids round to beg door to door. Of course, penny for the guy is a Good British Tradition and therefore completely OK. Bah. Humbug. (I'm one of those horrible people who insists that carol singers manage at least one verse of a proper carol, and don't come before it is at least December. Meh.)
Lastly, comments are out at the moment. I hope they fix themselves the meantime you'll just have to email me.
*I was with a friend who wanted a watch battery, and apparently that is where she gets them

Wednesday, October 30, 2002
your mission, should you choose to accept it to find some decent teabags. (And not accepting the mission is not an option.) The last box of teabags we carefully shipped halfway around the world and have eked out, making two or three or sometimes even four cups (don't tell anyone) from each bag, is coming to an end. There are two bags left, and I think they will have to be kept for a special occasion. If anyone out there can suggest a brand of tea that will taste a bit like Sainsbury's Earl Grey, I'd be delighted. I haven't investigated what is available here yet but I know I don't like Twinings, too perfumed. Liptons is too...well...anyway I don't think they do earl grey. (Liptons is made in the UK you know. So why do you only ever get it abroad?)
If the cats ever come in I'll saunter down to the local supermarket's 'import centre' for some research. Fortunately they have stopped playing That Tune so I can browse without fearing for my mental health. (That's funny. I tried to link back to an old post about how my supermarket now has an import section and how I was worried about the staff as they played 'it's a small world after all' on a loop for 3 weeks when it opened. Only I can't find that post. Did I dream it? Maybe I just emailed someone about it? Am I losing the plot altogether?)
Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002
name that allergy
Any takers? It started yesterday and has got worse today: sore, itchy eyes; sneezy, runny nose. Like the hayfever I usually get for a couple of weeks in May (which I think is tree pollen). Only it's nearly November, most plants have shut down for the winter, so has anyone got any ideas? The only flowers out and, presumably, pollinating are chrysanthemums and the odd azalea (I think?) and there are none of them in my neighbourhood as far as I know. We're certainly not overrun with them, you'd have to search them out. Maybe it's not pollen - but what? Haven't eaten anything weird as far as I'm aware.
Anyway I took an antihistamine, which hasn't helped hugely (hmm. So maybe not an allergy, perhaps I'm getting a winter cold-and-itchy-eyes thing) but has meant that I spent the afternoon in a haze of sleepiness, dazed and confused. Fab. Think it's wearing off now, so I am going to have to go back and look at today's work, see if I've done anything ludicrous...
In the meantime, suggestions for what it could be will be much appreciated. Sensible ones.

diamonds are a girl's best friend
I was gazing around the room at yoga this morning, having collapsed in defeat, when I noticed the shiny jewels all around me. Virtually everyone in the class had a huge sparkler as an engagement ring, and many of them were wearing matching earrings. One girl was wearing a fantastic diamond bracelet (I suppose it could have been cubic zirconia, but I somehow don't think so). They all have rich-people's small bottoms too. I think I have stumbled into the wrong class (and they are all too polite to ask me to leave!). I wonder what their posh going-out jewels look like if that is what they wear for exercise?

Monday, October 28, 2002
This is a question for my older readers. Do you remember Shogun, the one with Richard Chamberlain? I wasn't allowed to stay up and watch it at the time, so when I found it in our video shop I had to get it out (unfortunately it's cut down into a 2-hour film - I really wanted the full 12-hour miniseries). When it was shown at home, was the Japanese subtitled so you could understand what was going on, or was it left so that you felt as bewildered as he did? Here, we have Japanese subtitles on the English dialogue, as always, which is fine. But if there were English subtitles on the Japanese dialogue, they've been removed! We can understand the Japanese that Chamberlain speaks (nice and slow, easy words) but when the lords are plotting between themselves in that gruff, gutteral Japanese that feudal lords always speak in these sorts of things, not a chance! And I'd like to know how much of the plot we are missing.

Friday, October 25, 2002
I'm so tired I could just cry. It was such a beautiful day today that when I had to go to Ebisu I decided to go by bike rather than underground, and ended up cycling for about 2 hours. Tokyo is *hilly* and now I ache all over. So I'm off to bed.
I was just trying (and failing) to find a map of Tokyo so you could see how far Ebisu is from my house (not very, is the answer - maybe 4 miles?). I failed to find a useful map, but I did find this, a map of Tokyo's toilets with star ratings. Very useful.

words learnt yesterday: 4. still not v. good.
saru, monkey; kaeru, frog; yuube, last night; uwaremashita, was born. Try making a sentence from that lot!

Yesterday was the day of the Great Shell Wives Outing. (I want to call it a bantay but I'm afraid only my (mum's) family would know what was meant. Does anyone else know bantay, from (I think) band-tea, meaning a mass outing/jolly? No? Just us then. Probably you don't know boogeek either!).
It turned out to be much better than expected as there were only 5 who made it during the day, and we all got along OK - not that I expected not to get along with them, but it's a funny thing, spending time with people simply because your husbands work for the same company. In fact, as a complete aside, that's one of the hardest things for me about being here - I am no longer defined by who I am and what I do, but by who I'm married to. Of all the western women I know here, I think only 2 or 3 are here for themselves, everyone else is an accompanying spouse. Some cope with that better than others. Um.
Anywhere, where was I. Oh yes. I went cooking in the morning and didn't really have time to go home so arrived early and had to wander the backstreets of a yokohama suburb for half an hour before finding a coffee shop. On the train, the young Japanese couple next to me were spelling out the English writing on the signs and adverts - just like Cameron and I try to spell out the Japanese - and asked me how to say priority. It is a hard word. But I felt very pleased with myself because I'd understood the question, asked in Japanese! Wahey! I did have to ask him to repeat it once, but that's OK, I wasn't expecting to be spoken to.
Eventually the time came to meet and we got into Vanessa's car (she has a car! She drives in Japan! How brave) and went up to the sankeien garden, which was lovely. Cats, ducks, carp, crows, unfortunately loads of very large spiders which scared me witless of course, very embarrassing (I think all the spiders in Japan perhaps live in this garden as you hardly ever see one here); leaves just starting to turn and mist on the water. No photos, as C took the camera to work yesterday. In the garden, a 200-year-old Japanese house you could go and explore. Very dark, very spooky, quite smoky. A place upstairs to keep silkworms and a boat to hold mountain water for cooking.
A quick drink at the Yokohama country club (you see the circles I move in these days?!) where we bumped into an absentee shell wife, looking frazzled at her son's birthday party, then into Chinatown where we met the rest of the gang (!), poked around in the shops and visited the shrine, which is even more spectacular lit up at night, before stuffing ourselves silly with delicious chinese food.
The only trouble with Yokohama is trying to get back home afterwards - train, change, train, change, subway, change...only I was fed up by that point and got a taxi home.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002
One more thing...

That's a funny thing. I always talk about taking the video back, watching a video. It was a DVD. It's a bit like doing the hoovering, even with a dyson. I suppose.

Just call me Nigella*
In a fit of domesticity, I've made bread. Bread! Me! Mind you, haven't tasted it yet, it's still rising on top of the stereo. Actually used one of Nige's recipes because rather than making me feel goddess-like, he makes me feel like any old fool could do it, which is what I need mostly. Oh, and his writing makes my mouth water.
Otherwise it's been a very quiet day. Worked all morning, went down the road to buy food and take the video back, pottered all afternoon. Have learnt some words though I can't swear that they'll still be there tomorrow. I can't swear they'll still be there in half an hour. (kaeru, frog. Also unlikely to come up I feel.). Hmm, the video. We watched dancer in the dark last night. Not very cheery really. Not cheery at all.
do you think there is a spate of kids called Nigella now? If neighbours could spark a load of Jasons, it's probable I think.

New words learnt (actually, old words re-learnt) yesterday: 3. Not v. good

kasa (umbrella), kagi (keys), haizara (ashtray). 3 a day days = 117 new words. Must increase rate of learning. Will try for 4 today. gah!

Tuesday, October 22, 2002
800 words. Is that a lot? I have no idea. We have to know 'approximately' 800 words (and 'approximately' 80 kanji) for the JLPT test, to be sat next month. Of course, we have to know the right 800 words, so I suspect parts of our already limited vocabularies will just not count (turtle. gourd. a kind of happy melancholic nostalgia. sea bream. miaow). I just tried to think of all the words I know but I ran out around 30, which doesn't bode well...(I wonder how many english words we know? I tried to find out on the web but I got bogged down in discussion about word families and how you define a word, so I gave up. A lot though. many. plenty. oodles. stacks heaps umpteen bucket/shed/sackloads. a multitude).

Monday, October 21, 2002
You take the high road and I'll take the low road

Well that was surreal to say the least. Took the train all the way out to...well, the hounslow of Tokyo I suppose. No problem finding where to go at the station - I followed the man in the 'famous grouse' top and the girl in the tartan hat and, as I approached the field, I was guided by the skirl of bagpipes (bravely, I didn't turn and run back the way I'd come). The weather was doing a fair imitation of Scotland (in the summer ha ha) - chilly and damp and threatening rain at any minute. Cameron was playing for France in the traditional highland 5-a-side competition: when I arrived he was feeling miffed because he had the wrong boots and the rest of his team weren't pro footballers. However, after a can or two of lager that seemed to matter less to him, and his accent was getting a good airing, so all was well there.
I left him to it to explore...well. Giant men, the like of which you rarely see in Japan, in slightly-too-short kilts, throwing weights and hammers and what have you. I felt I was taking my life in my hands standing close by the hammer competition - they seemed to be letting anyone have a go and if they let go too soon that would be the end of the small Japanese dancing children, or me. I had a feel of the hammer and it was *heavy*. I know little about the rules of caber-tossing, but is it usual, once everyone has had a go and failed to turn it, to produce a hacksaw and take a foot off the end? Nobody managed to toss the shorter version either but I didn't see them shorten it again: presumably tossing the meter-rule is a less attractive spectator sport.
I wandered off to find some food - haggis, neeps and tatties washed down with Irn-bru. Not a raw fish or a grain of rice in sight. I ate that surrounded by Scottish ladies - you know the type. Slightly librarian-like, hair too long, large glasses, into knitting and country dancing? Where did they all appear from I wonder. The field was quite full of characters; one of my particular favourites (in fact I stalked him for a while - there's a picture below) was a 'laird' type, long dishevelled hair, full highland outfit - and his friend, a refined-looking Japanese lady in a delightful tam-o'-shanter. The dancing competition was in full swing by this point - my, do they take it seriously. We found out that the judges for the dancing competition at this charity event had had to be flown in from Scotland, else the dancers refused to compete - apparently that uses most of the funds raised! (I expect they make plenty on the jam and marmalade stall though: I was tempted until C pointed out that it was about a fiver a pot!) I thought one boy, surely old enough to know better (he must have been in his 20s, even allowing for Japanese youthfulness - there's a picture of him down there too), was going to cry when he hopped on the wrong leg mid-fling. He appeared to be competing with 6-year-old girls (who had their stage mamas cheering them on).
The commentator (there was a chap with a microphone wittering on all day: is the caber going to it!'s not, ad infinitum. Come to think of it, for all I know he could be the ambassador) was very excitable during the under-5s egg and spoon race, although not what one would call 'accurate', not if he was looking at the same race as I was. One child (probably a ringer, he looked at least 5 1/4 to me) was way out in front when the commentator was talking about a photo-finish. There was disappointment all round when he announced that the adult races were cancelled due to it being more of a bog than a track. Clearly, I was inconsolable.
Cameron was resigned to not winning the footy by this point - the last team they played was made up of the best players from other teams, as the team that was supposed to be playing had got bored and wandered off somewhere. Slackers. For the first time in his life, Cameron wished he was older - another 15 months and he'd be allowed to play for the over-35s, where he could be a golden boy again, rather than being an old man in the under-35s as he was yesterday. He's never going to fit in with the others though - not unless he gets himself a Japanese wife. I just don't blend in.

Saturday, October 19, 2002
This is where we're going tomorrow. I can't think of anything suitable to say.

I've done well for books today - went to the SWET 2nd-hand book fair: all paperbacks 100 yen (about 50p. A bargain back home, a miracle here!). Am now the proud owner of 7 lovely new books, plus 3 free magazines. Yay! Also managed to get tickets for Primal Scream next month (I bought them in Japanese and everything. I'm so proud), and to get the playstation working - so I won't be reading those books until Lara has collected the three remaining artefacts! Cameron has been off at some motor race thing - he claims it is work...

Friday, October 18, 2002
I'm doing fine with my whisky and wine
OK it's my turn (see Lisa's blog). Here's what's in my bag:
mint sweets
yoga eye pillow (just in case...)
bar of crunky
minidisc player + 6 spare discs (important to have just the right one for your mood. However, this does mean I am carrying something like 200 hours of music about - a bit excessive for my usual 20-minute train ride perhaps?)
wallet: cute, red with flowers on.
little coin purse (note to self: next time you buy a wallet, get one with a place for coins)
raffle tickets, to be drawn a fortnight ago
6 old receipts, assorted
7 pens (5 are red. Guess what I do for a living?!)
phone bill, paid
2 old train passes
business cards, assorted, mostly restaurants (why do I always pick them up?)
flyer craft fair next weekend (already?)
lip balm
2 lipsticks
nail file
cocodamol tablets, bashed up
loose change
japanese text book
dvd (this isn't always there, obviously. I just went and got it out to watch tonight)
No wonder I get backache! I think it must be genetic - I am not nearly as bad as my granny (fruit knife, spare fruit knife, rainmate, spare rainmate...about a stone of handbag) or my mum (who carries every bill she has ever paid, along with half of the UK polo stock and assorted toys she has stolen from children*). Suzi - if you read this, have you got these genes too; what's in your bag? Anyone else? (Men: pockets).
*She's a teacher, not some sort of scarey witchy toy-stealer. Or is that the same thing?

Still being in your pyjamas at 10 in the morning is all well and good (and cosy, lovely) until somebody comes to the door. I did my best to look like I might have flu but I could tell he wasn't convinced.

Today's good news is that I don't have to work! The bad news is, it's raining. That does, however, provide the perfect excuse to stay in my pyjamas and read, ready for next week's book group meeting (we're reading a history of the world in 10 1/2 chapters and Colette's the captive - no link as it is out of print. Good choice!). Cameron won't be back until late as he is having to go to Nagoya for a teleconference (don't ask. I also, naively, thought that the point of a teleconference was to prevent people travelling, but what do I know?) so I have hours and hours stretching ahead of me. Give me 3 hours and I'll be bored and back here wittering.

Thursday, October 17, 2002
not a plum. did I say plum? (I've been out for dinner and come back and been worrying about it all evening). It was more A greengage. Or a very large grape. Or perhaps a ping-pong ball.

I just passed a woman on the street carrying a teeny tiny baby monkey wrapped up in a towel. Its head was about the size of a plum. Sweet! But not normal, even here. Surely.

we're on our way down under
we're on our way down under
da na na na
da na na na

Just booked our flights for Christmas in New Zealand! How exciting is that! We'll be able to see the Two Towers at the same time as the rest of the world instead of waiting until spring for its Japan release! Oh, and we'll probably see some good scenery and stuff too I expect...

Wednesday, October 16, 2002
I feel the earth move under my feet
I experienced my first high-rise earth tremor yesterday (when does it stop being a tremor and become a quake?). It was very odd - when you are on the ground or first floor, it feels like a sharp jolt, like someone has slammed an enormous car door, or a rumbling, like being inside thunder. Up on the 14th floor in my cooking teacher's flat, the room gently swayed back and forth. I felt vaguely disoriented and thought it was me swaying (? as you do) until I asked her and we noticed that the light fittings were swinging.
Incidentally, I never know afterwards if there has been any sound. It feels as though it should be noisy but somehow I don't think it is. Silent in fact. But I can't remember. I'll try and concentrate next time.

a question of etiquette
"You are very kind" she said "to correct my English". But what did she mean? Was it meant as it sounds, that she appreciates learning new words - and that really is all it is, her English is excellent. Today, for example, I suggested that instead of oxygenated she might like to try oxidised. And oxidation instead of oxygenation. But did she really mean 'shut up I'm doing just fine on my own' but was too polite to say so? I don't know, but I've been worrying about it all day.

Monday, October 14, 2002
No post for a few days due to running about manically. It started with beers on Thursday night, went onto a cookery lesson Friday morning - complete with duck impressions, yoga, and an explanation (I think) of why you have to eat mushrooms if you are going through the menopause - and a full day's work squeezed into Friday afternoon (multi-tasking? A doddle. I was almost editing different things with different hands!) then out for a delicious dinner at kubakan friday night. I spotted a review of the restaurant in a magazine on saturday that claimed the clientele were young, funky, sophisticated and moneyed...that's us alright!
Saturday we slept late then had to rush to get a haircut before dashing across Tokyo (leaving the cats with 3 meals-worth of food in their bowls; a food mountain. Must buy automatic feeders) to catch the shinkansen to Nagoya. Eiji got on the train at Yokohama - after finding our hotel we wandered around Nagoya looking for food and stumbled across a nice Chinese restaurant. Eiji accepted our pleas for no raw jellyfish and ordered lots of delicious food...eventually we were joined by Maruyama-san, happy as larry (who's larry?) after 3 days 'working' at the grand prix carting diesel about and watching the goings on.
And that is of course why we were there, so on Sunday we collected Eiji's customer (who would not let me be polite to him but insisted I sat in the front of the taxi and went onto the escalators first! Honestly...) and set off to the race track. Luckily Cameron has some contacts (!) so we got a little tour of the garage and the fancy labs and saw the ferraris all in bits. Very exciting, and I don't even like motor racing! We spotted some people we knew...both schumachers, david coulthard and some other drivers who Cameron recognised but I of course hadn't even heard of. I had a brief stint of attempting to take some photos but it seems I'm not cut out to be paparazzi and didn't manage to snap any celebs at all!
Then we went off to find our seats, via a detour round half of the track. So many people! All wearing ferrari stuff! Cameron was quite disgruntled when I acquired some flags for us to wave, turns out waving honda racing flags is not the thing when you work for Shell. What do I know, I just wanted a flag! I eventually acquired a couple of Bridgestone ones, which were apparently OK (though C never did actually wave his!). Seats were right in the sun and incredibly hot, which provided a good excuse for me to buy a (ferrari of course) T-shirt: a lambswool top was not appropriate garb at all. Oh well. We had about 45 minutes to kill so I amused myself watching the men watching the race queens (what do they do? What are they for?), and a childrens choir sang something that we stood up for. The national anthem? No idea.
Racing extremely loud. If we go again I will definitely take earplugs because it actually hurt physically. Schumacher was right at the front but I can't tell you much about the race I'm afraid (try here - we were sitting right next to the marlboro banner you can see in the first picture of the gallery!). We did see an engine blow up which added a bit of excitement, but no exciting crashes or overtaking antics, at least not where we were sitting. You'd have to ask Cameron if you really wanted to know about it, I was just enjoying the atmosphere! Every time the Japanese driver came past the crowd got very excited and waved their flags, sounded a klaxon and whatnot. When the ferraris came past I waved my flag and so did the 3-year-old sitting in front of us (though to be honest she was waving at everyone!). I like to think that in my own special way I helped with the victory.

Thursday, October 10, 2002
Yolly (our maid...yes yes I know I should be a domestic goddess and do my own ironing, and yes I feel the middle-class guilt too...) just told me 'I thought you were skinny but you're not'! What was that? She said it as though it was supposed to be a compliment but of course I have interpreted it as 'blimey what a heffer'. Mind you, she's not renowned for her sensible conversation - other classics have included the fact that all British men leave their wives when they come to Japan because the Japanese women are so nice. Oh, but it won't happen to me. And the fact that all British people in Japan know each other, and that British people love their parents more than their spouses...and that no British people have children because we enjoy life too much (?!). Anyway though. She thinks I'm fat. Must go to the gym...(ha! though! She saw pictures of Suzi's wedding and said that she looks older than me! Ha ha! Unfortunately it's clearly not true. Boo.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2002
I should have bought two tins of beans, then I could have put the other one* into my earthquake survival kit (you can tell that's not a Japanese list - deodorant?!), which at present consists of 18 litres of water and a fire extinguisher. Actually, the fire extinguisher is only there because it happened to be there when we moved into the house. I do have a torch somewhere...
* I made Nigella's onion pie last night, OK?! Beans on toast is perfectly acceptable occasionally!

Hairnets and dogfood
Living in Japan, where women have their own particularly 'special' sense of fashion, and working from home* (because what's the point in making an effort when you're not going to see anyone?) are doing nothing for my fashion sense. I am forgetting how to dress. No, not how to dress - that would be silly - I can still get my trousers on the right way round and my socks on my feet - but what to wear with what. I got halfway up the hill home before I realised that I just went to the supermarket (it's a small world after all) dressed like a spinster of the parish in an ankle-length skirt, shirt, cardy, sensible lace-up shoes and socks. Socks! With a skirt!! And I hadn't brushed my hair. And I bought a tin of beans and two tins of cat food. What is happening to me? Somebody take me out where I can wear sparkly makeup and silly shoes, quick! Things are only going to get worse as time progresses and I am stuck with the contents of my wardrobe (Japanese clothes are small. Teeny.) - when it goes completely out of fashion, I won't know. Perhaps it already anyone else still wearing 'gypsy'? The alternative is to submit to Japanese fashions and wear the legwarmers, buy some sock glue, and be done with it.
*great in some ways: cats, music while I work, a bed to collapse on when it all gets too much, nobody asking stupid questions. Bad in others: days can go past where I speak to nobody but Cameron (and he doesn't want to speak back, he's been at work with real people all day!), I have to make my own cups of tea, nobody ever brings me chocolates and I end up working into the evening in order to overlap with the UK

Monday, October 07, 2002
I'm also top for souwester yellow UK. Woohoo. And hello if that's what you came here looking for.

A quiet weekend. Out Friday night with Cameron's colleagues, who now know two new english words - wimp and wishy-washy - while once again I have failed to pick up any japanese. I must, must do some homework. Monged about for most of Saturday - managed to drag ourselves out to a supermarket as we had people coming for dinner, which was a bit hit-and-miss as I can't get the hang of my oven: bruschetta were fine at the second attempt (first lot went up in flames!) then roast pork, which was pretty good even if the 'pan juices' were more like 'pan charcoal', with roast potatoes (yum). Nigella's blackberry galette for pudding was ok but not brilliant - had to improvise the creme fraiche with a cream and yogurt mixture, and it wasn't the same. Jose and Grace were polite enough to eat it all, though I'm sure I have confirmed all their prejudices about English food.
More monging on Sunday - we went to see the road to perdition which was, well, pretty grim. I'm no fan of Tom Hanks anyway and in this one he just trawls about 1930s America killing people and looking stern. Oh and his son goes with him. You can tell you're not entirely involved in a film when you spend half of it trying to remember when you last had a boiled egg (because someone is having one onscreen) and the other half wondering whether Jude Law's directors resent his pretty face as he gets cut up in every film he makes! Afterwards we went to dai-sushi, on Jose and Grace's recommendation, and they were right, what a fantastic restaurant. It's more western than most sushi bars here, more how I imagine them to be in New York or somewhere, with lots of stainless steel and - gasp! - a female sushi chef. As well as the raw fish, you could get sushi topped with various vegetables, hot courgette fritters, sirloin steak... and the best california rolls I think I've ever had. We stuffed ourselves silly.
We got home to find a very bizarre film on about a group of Yorkshire women sumo wrestlers and the cats had their first encounter with a cockroach. Islay trotted about after it in a non-aggressive manner; Jura chased it behind a curtain. Typical.

In the absence of inspiration (it is a Monday morning), here is a list of some of the most peculiar search-engine referrals I've had lately:

pictures of rubbish in a changing room
female sweaty armpits
pics of kitted up beatles (I'm top!)
the gap down her blouse was fantastic
japanese lollies
japanese ghost expat "you know"
tops of stockings are being seen in 2002
women in knee high boots airport
how much vocab needed to learn a language italian

I don't think i can help with any of them

Friday, October 04, 2002
I've had a proper expat wife day today. Well, apart from working this morning of course (and searching the house for Jura, who eventually turned up 7 foot off the ground on a shelf in the linen cupboard. I have no idea how she got there but can only assume she has learnt to levitate, presumably as a result of her traumatic fall last year!). My afternoon has been almost exactly as I think everyone imagines my life here to be. Lunch with three other 'shell wives' followed by mooching around Omotesando (the Champs Elysees of Tokyo, dontchaknow). I bought Christmas cards and some postable pressies (starting early this year!) and we were given tea while looking at some beautiful Japanese screens. Into the oriental bazaar for a spot of shopping (and regretting being so talentless as the materials are wonderful. If only I could sew). The antique chest we fell for last weekend is still there...then coffee and more chat, and home. It will be martini time on the verandah before I know it!

Thursday, October 03, 2002
ask, and it shall be given
Here they are! (Black cats. Particularly difficult to photograph.) Islay left, Jura right. Yes, I can tell them apart. Mostly.
islay jura

dum de dum de dum de dum
OOh! ooh! Finally the archers is getting interesting again! After weeks of suffering inane stuff about Emma's love-life, pig pens and fancy-dress parties, Brian and Siobhann went out for an intimate evening, only to bump into Simon and Brenda! This is exciting! And Brian can't tell Debbie because then Simon might tell Jennifer. And vice versa. What fun!!

Wednesday, October 02, 2002
Well here we are. 6 months to the day since we arrived, dazed, confused and wondering where our belongings were. We had 2 weeks in a hotel: Cameron was sent straight off to work while I wandered lostly around Tokyo and swam in the lovely hotel pool (at least until the day when I was doing leisurely lengths on my back only to spot a gang of window cleaners watching me through the glass roof!). Then we were back into 'real life', only now it was Japan-fashion.

We've both been a bit down recently - me feeling how far away everybody is, Cameron finding his working day impossibly long - so in honour of the occasion and to remind ourselves that, actually, we are doing OK (with the exception of the temperamental fax machine, which continues to baffle me) here are two celebratory lists:

Good Stuff We've Done
  • the world cup! I thought it was fantastic and I'm no football fan. Cameron thought he was in heaven (but I wonder when he will make his web page about the final?!)
  • mmm, sushi
  • overnight trips to Korea, Hakone, Kobe. Day trips all round Tokyo, to Kamakura, Mt Takao and (several to) Yokohama.
  • the Fuji rock festival. It rocked.
  • freak-spotting, gadget-shopping, traffic-stopping, ear-popping (harajuku, akihabara, shibuya, shinjuku).

  • Things We've Learnt
  • to buy train tickets, get dry cleaning done, parcels posted and photos developed. We can order pizza, and books from japanese amazon. We know where to go for the biggest selection of windchimes or pastries, the best places to take visitors (and places not to bother with), lots of nice restaurants, places for a sunday-afternoon stroll or a proper walk, where to get a decent cup of tea, dried figs, lush toiletries, T-shirts with cool slogans, and digestive biscuits. We sometimes even manage to come out of stations at the correct exit.
  • the songs you like are not necessarily those you can sing best.
  • Just Say No to those grey shrimp/woodlouse things that look so nasty on sushi. They are. Ditto raw jellyfish, chicken cartilage, and fish eyes. Everything else is safe (so far).
  • a small earth tremor is not a reason to run screaming from the house. Far better to observe coolly ‘that was an earth tremorÂ’. Give us another 6 months and it won't even require comment.

  • wheee! They're here!

    Blimey. Shows what I know...

    OK well they're in Japan and in the capable hands of some random man we've sent to the airport. (Not completely random: he's an airport pick-up man. I think he usually collects people.) He just phoned to say that they were on the motorway and he had the window open but did I think it would be better if he shut the window and put the aircon on! (?) I suspect they are shouting their little heads off - hungry, disoriented and never keen on car travel - nor on suffering in silence - but the line was too bad to tell. 2 hours and they'll be here!

    (Pacing nervously up and down)

    The plane has landed. Now keep fingers crossed they are OK.

    Tuesday, October 01, 2002
    As you might imagine I've spent a bit of time over the last few days in pet shops - cats don't get a baggage allowance. Japanese pet shops are peculiar. They are stocked to bursting with dog accessories: dogs are the pet of choice here, clearly because they are more amenable to being dressed up and carried about under your arm. You can buy any little doggy outfit you can imagine, though I'm a girl of simple tastes and my particular favourite is the yellow souwester/mac/wellington boots combo. Cameron says boots for dogs is a sensible idea somewhere concrete like Tokyo and I suppose he's right...but they do look silly. You can buy wasabi snacks for your dog (presumably as a punishment), bows for its hair, wax for its paws and party frocks for when it goes out.
    Most of them stock about two balls suitably cat-sized and perhaps a plastic squeaky mouse. I eventually tracked down a scratching post in the supermarket, but it's cardboard so won't last 5 minutes. I was very tempted by a cute puppy but came to my senses when I saw the price (oh but it was adorable. And I could dress it up!). I wouldn't mind a puppy, I'm home most of the time here so it would be OK. But it would have to be the sort that didn't smell doggy and wouldn't lick my face wetly. Do they exist?

    the calm after the storm
    well, that wasn't nearly as bad as expected. I didn't sleep much last night anyway (see below) and the weather was loud for a few hours - wind whistling, no, howling, between the houses and occasional gusts rattling the windows and shaking the walls - but this morning has clear blue skies and a perfect stillness. If I didn't have to wait in for You Know Who, I'd get myself up a tower somewhere; I think you would see Fuji and further.
    So, I wasn't sleeping but lying awake and fretting. A random selection of worries: what if Jura's bionic leg sets off the metal detectors and they think she's a bomb? what if they forget to heat/aerate their compartment? what if they're in a compartment with a lion or a ferocious panda or something being shipped to a zoo? what if the plane crashes? what if it's turbulent? what if they can't get through customs and are sent back? what if the pilot is a psychopathic animal hater? I don't worry nearly as much when Cameron flies (though I suppose might if he was transported in a wooden crate in the hold).

    batten down the hatches
    Apparently the worst typhoon for 60 years is about to hit. The rain this afternoon was so hard that I could feel the floor shaking: will the house still be standing in the morning? Will the kitties be able to fly in OK? How will they cope with turbulance (at least I supose they won't scream and panic everyone like the woman in front of me on my way back to the UK last year)?

    I'm so excited!
    Guess who's arriving here tomorrow? Go on, guess. Here are some clues. They are small and black, they've lived in Scotland for the past 6 months, they love ping-pong balls, shoeboxes and small birds and are not keen on small children.
    I'm also very worried. It's a looong flight and they're only little.
    Can't concentrate.