Thursday, January 30, 2003
Has anyone started making hipster tights yet (and would they stay up? how? tights braces?). If not, I suppose I've just spoilt my chance at the patent. Ah well. See, the thing is, it's cold here*. So cold, sometimes a girl wants to wear a nice cosy pair of tights under her trousers. Only, these days, trousers only come to your hips (and sometimes barely there), but tights still come all the way to your waist (and higher, if you're a shorty like me). Now, I know in certain circles** it's de rigeur to have your sequinned designer thong sticking out of the top of your jeans, but nowhere (and I've checked this month's Elle quite carefully) have I seen an inch and a half of 80-denier black nylon cited as a fashion statement. Am I just ahead of the times? What it is, I think, is that lucky fashion types jet from hot place to hot place so it never crosses their minds to do something for people who live in places with ice. Stockings might be a solution but they don't keep your bottom warm (and as far as I'm aware don't come in 'thick and woolly'). Or pippi-longstocking socks? Same problem. I'm either going to get out the scissors and experiment (bound to end in disaster), stick to wearing long tops (current solution) or go and live somewhere hot (hmm...).
*and that's another thing that troubles me. It is cold - the water from next-door's overflow has frozen solid and I walked past a kiddies swimming pool today that was more like a skating rink. But no frost. Get up as early as you like to catch it, it's just not there. I don't get it. Is it because the air is so dry there's nothing to condense and freeze? That's my current favourite (=only) theory and one I also apply to the phenomenon of not being able to see your breath. But it worries me, I admit it.
**not these ones. I think I've missed my chance to be a teen pop sensation.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003
at last
The first set of our New Zealand photos (the first 10 days or so) can be found here. More to follow soon.
What with having no work to do and all (apart from my very own Manic Monday) I've been pottering about the web a bit so I've updated my blogroll - taken away some I don't read as often as I used to, added a couple that I promise you'll enjoy (Momo and the newly started my boyfriend...). I have a few more up my sleeve but I'm going to keep an eye on them for a while first, just to make sure they're ok.
Um. What else? (Not much happening today, can you tell?). Oh, it was Cameron's birthday yesterday so I cooked his favourite tea (!) and some chocolate brownies (after a fashion: I don't think they are supposed to be chewy, are they?) and he watched some of his newly arrived DVDs, so I think he had a nice time. No wild parties this year though - far too old for that sort of thing now!

Monday, January 27, 2003
arg. You know I spent last week pottering about having no work to do? Well, today I have four, four!!, 'urgent' slide sets to edit. Do I look like wonderwoman?* No warning, and a deadline of 'monday morning GMT', whatever that means (presumably it means 'as opposed to Japan monday morning', because that really would be physically impossible). I wouldn't mind - these things happen - except today I had actually made some nice plans. I was going to go for lunch then see Iris at the cinema with some friends, but I've had to cancel...(bottom lip stuck out far enough to trip over). I could have fitted this around a 'normal' working day, but not with all those slides. I've been working on them since 7.30 this morning and see no end to it yet.
*the correct answer here is 'no'. I don't even have any satin tights.
In other working news, I have a test manuscript coming from a Japanese medical communications company this week - and they're going to pay me for it! That's got to be OK (except they haven't told me how much they'll pay yet).

Sunday, January 26, 2003
Yesterday was the cats' birthday (they're 4!!) so we let them have the run of the house to celebrate and went to the Fujiya hotel in Hakone, which was the first western-style hotel to open in Japan. It's charming, though slightly dilapidated, like something from an Agatha Christie. The walls are covered in prints of the famous people who have visited over the years - John Lennon, Helen Keller, Charlie Chaplin, the entire Swedish royal family. We arrived around 4 on Saturday and, as usual when we first arrive at a hotel, were a bit unsure what to do with ourselves...but I contented myself cranking open and closing the windows with the fancy mechanism and making tea, and Cameron tuned in to CNN. We attempted to have afternoon tea only to find that everyone else had had the same idea and we'd have to wait - so we had a wander around the gardens - koi, check; bonsai, check; stone lanterns, check;, check.
fishy fishy fishy rusty roofs fujiya Cameron
We then went to investigate the japanese baths and ended up staying for a good leisurely soak, coming back feeling very clean, warm and relaxed. Next, to the bar for pre-dinner drinkies, where, as the only westerners staying, we were the only people, then we had to run up the road (it's cold! it's cold!) behind first a small deferential girl and second a deferential boy with a lantern who imperiously stopped the traffic - to the annexe, where we were booked for a japanese keiseki meal. We had a sweet waitress who kept popping off to translate what we were eating; fortunately (?) not until after we'd eaten it. After one dish in particular that had caused some discussion (me: it's fish brains I'm telling you! Cameron: no, it's some sort of tofu thing) she came back with a beer mat on which was written
Cod fish
the internal organs
in clear soup

(the clarity of the soup is important when you are eating cod organs).
It turned out that another dish (which Cameron again claimed was tofu - have I discovered his secret to being able to eat anything?) had been minced scallops - but my food allergies seem to be clearing up apace and I suffered no ill-effects.
We washed it all down with hot sake steeped with fish fins. This was not exactly what we thought we'd ordered but it was "interesting" nevertheless. Kind of...fishy. Back to the bar for a nightcap - it was positively teeming by now with about eight people in and a couple playing very aggressive yet scoreless darts.
This morning we enjoyed the hot-spring bath in our room then explored the town. Two minutes later we'd explored every nook and cranny and were wondering what to do next. Buying bread at the bakery seemed inordinately popular so (when in Rome) I bought some, then we decided to climb to the fuji-view area we'd spotted a sign for last night. It was a bit cloudy but never mind, if we couldn't see Fuji we'd see something. Well, 'climb' really was the correct word. We were not equipped (you can take us out of the city...). Cameron was in his no-grip school shoes and carrying a loaf of bread; I was catching my long winter coat on the branches, trying not to trip over my too-long jeans (I must get them taken up. Can anyone tell me where I get that done in Tokyo, or explain how I would do it myself, bearing in mind that I am a multi-thumbed imbecile when it comes to sewing? I can do wonda-web at a push but it doesn't last 5 minutes in the washing machine), trampling my rolling-down turnups into the mud and snow and with my camera bag threatening to overbalance every wobble into a full-scale tumble down the mountain. Shortly after meeting an elderly couple in full hiking gear who looked at us sceptically, enquired whether we were really planning to go up, and said kindly that it was quite snowy and we should be careful, we gave up. Cameron strangely showed little interest when I tried to draw his attention to some unusual ice crystals on the way down.
That was more than enough exercise for one day so we took the funicular railway up a bit further and had lunch at the gyoza centre. Delicious, and well worth the wait outside in the cold.

Friday, January 24, 2003
retail therapy and graves
Well, if you can't stay home and earn money, might as well go and spend it, that's what I say. Actually, I was pretty good - some bits and pieces for my camera, a delicious sushi lunch (yes I know I had sushi for lunch yesterday, but that was a cooking class so didn't count, you see. Anyway, it's good for you.), a book I'd been wanting for ages and some well-reduced tracky bottoms in J Crew. They made my day, no my week, because the small ones fitted - I didn't have to buy extra-extra large, or even 'large'!! Unheard of here...OK they may be an American company but they are presumably catering to the Japanese market (in fact, I know they are because the legs were the right length for me, which means they'd be flapping mid-calf on most westerners).
It is lovely shopping here...even though I was spending a measly 3000 yen, he folded them carefully, took my manky scruffy plastic bags off me and put them all carefully in one of their stylish brown-paper bags, fastened carefully at the top with branded tape, then came out from behind his counter and bowed to me as he handed me the bag. And they are far too polite to check your signature against your credit card (actually, I'm not sure this last one is a good thing).
I arranged the trousers so the size label was sticking out of the bag (joke!) and wandered down to Aoyama cemetery. I've been meaning to visit since I first spotted it, way back in April when we were house-hunting - I like a good graveyard. It's huge! Truly a necropolis, occupying what must be millions of dollars of prime real estate, right in the middle of Tokyo.
graves and office block spooky red berries

There were lots of cats about but they wouldn't stay still to be photographed. All was silent until I took out my camera to take the middle photo, when all the 'lollysticks' rattled...if I was superstitious...but I'm not...and it was just the wind, and the photo got taken! Incidentally, if anyone knows what the sticks are for I have tried and failed to find out - I'm guessing some sort of year marker or something?

Wednesday, January 22, 2003
winter reflections
tea house shinjuku highrises lantern

No work again today. One of the 'bad' things about freelancing I suppose, these unanticipated lulls. Still, it wasn't too much of a problem! I went to Shinjuku and had a walk in the was so still even the fish were hanging motionless in the water and so quiet you could hear the birds poking about in the undergrowth. I sat by a pool for a while, watching as a steady stream of elderly men set up their tripods and took identical pictures - the leftmost above is the photo of choice for today. It *is* quite nice!
The first hints that spring might be on its way are apparent, with the odd lonely flower of blossom, some tiny little catkins and some furry pussy-willow type buds starting to show, and some very early narcicicicisssiiii (daffs):

I have also collected the last of my New Zealand photos. I've started sorting through, selecting the ones to go on the web - it's just that there are rather a lot of them...

no advert! tra la! isn't that better?

Tuesday, January 21, 2003
According to the calendar, yesterday was the coldest day of the year. (This is akin to everybody putting on their woolly hats because the calendar says it is now winter.) They were wrong though, today is far colder.
ring ring why don't you give me a la la

a new toy
it's very's pink and small and it flips open. And it takes photos: here's me and Jura on it, Benedict Allen style*!
me and Jura!
Oh. It will probably make phone calls too I suppose.
*I mean, taken held at arm's length, not that we are about to fall into a chasm or get eaten by a camel or anything.
Buying it took nearly 2 hours! I don't know what she was doing but she was a very proficient faffer-abouter. But they did give us two free gifts: a small fleecey blanket thing that cunningly folds and zips up into a cushion; and a plastic insulated lidded mug thing. Presumably mobile phones mean you will be traveling so you'll need such items? I have no idea. Anyway, it is jolly nice but now I have to wait for someone to ring me.

Sunday, January 19, 2003
oh dear
and I've still got a year to go!

a hint?
You know, when you get a nice email from a friend asking for your address so she can send you a proper letter, but then the next week she moves jobs without giving you her new email address *and* moves house without telling you where to? She's trying to tell you something, right?!

Saturday, January 18, 2003
I've finally made an 'about us' page. First draft only - expect it to change a bit. You can have look here though if you like.

Those of you who don't hang on avidly to my every word might not have noticed, but I've added a new site to my blogroll: the millpond, which is the site of my oldest friend Katy* and her partner** Duncan. If you do nothing else with it, go and read about today's Kate-ism. I kept giggling about it all morning. Even without knowing her, I think you'll enjoy it...if you do know her you will laugh even more!
*I mean, the friend I've known the longest (since I was 15 months old and, to be honest, I didn't know much about anything before then). She's not an antique or anything.
**yuk! but what else do you call them? 'Boyfriend' sounds so twee.

oh. one more thing. You know I said to be grateful I didn't have a scanner as that meant I just had 280-odd photos of NZ to choose from, rather than (um) 500 or so? My local photo developers have put my pics onto CD in jpeg format! Yay! (and also a good thing as they haven't done the colours as well as they might - the sea and sky looks a bit washed out. Hopefully I can tart them up a bit myself now).
Watch this space...

We went to see Gangs of New York last night. What a cheerless and pointless film, and soooo looong. Films used to be about 90 minutes, didn't they? I think directors should have to explain themselves and have a good reason if their film lasts longer than 2 hours. About 2/3 of the way through I was sure it was finished - the goody was about the kill the baddy - and then he got caught and I sighed as I realised it was going to go on for another 5 hours. Or so. The acting was quite good though.
Today we went to Ebisu to try and get mobile phones (at last). Only the ones we chose were out of stock so I have to go back on Monday afternoon in the hope they've had a delivery. Typical! We 've lived without them all this time but, now we've decided, I want it *now*! I'm feeling a bit listless for some reason (probably that film) - we even came out of the secondhand book shop empty-handed, which is unheard of!
What else. oh, I've listened to the three archers omnibuses that I missed while on our hols (dad kindly recorded them for me), wasn't it fantastic?! (Is there anyone out there who knows what I am talking about?) I got some funny looks on the trains though, as I alternately snivelled (Brian and co) and chuckled (Lynda Snell's new year party) to myself.

Friday, January 17, 2003
I could get used to this not-working malarky. I wonder how long it would be before I was bored and climbing the walls? In Tokyo, years, probably. (Back in Warrington, about a week). Best not get too used to it though as I am assured work will be Picking Up (read Frantic) again next week. So, this week - in between squeezing out that 3 hours of work - I have eased myself back into Tokyo living. I had my cooking class yesterday, which was a bit icky as we gutted fish (isn't that what fishmongers are for?). I've done it before, after a fashion (cleaning out the bits that have been left after a perfunctory onboard gut on a fishing trip) but not like this, cutting the gills out and everything. Still, they tasted good*. I then had a short wander about Shibuya, just to see what was what, and went to the gym. I'm so good. I even made a pizza for tea, from scratch (but only because I wanted to use up the manky old bits of cheese and salami lurking in the fridge).
This morning I went to Shinjuku on a secret mission (it's Cameron's birthday soon) and to pick up this week's Metropolis. We need to find a spare spare bed before the Visits start in March. This afternoon I am waiting in for a man to fix my waste disposal - not sure what I'll do but I expect it can be classified as 'pottering'.
Ooh. He just came and fixed it in approximately 30 seconds (lots of heavy sighs), spent a good 2 minutes bowing to me, and left. Now what will I do with the afternoon?
*the fish, not the gills. Yuk.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003
how hard can it be...
to buy a stamp? It's usually very easy at our local post office or convenience store. But today I made the mistake of going to Post Office Unknown. I encountered an incredible giggling girl (the Japanese tend to giggle to cover embarrassment. Clearly, speaking to me was the most embarrassing thing she has ever encountered), who would not speak to me in Japanese despite the fact that she knew approximately 3 words of English. I soldiered on in my best Japanese: 'Please can I have five 110-yen stamps'
(giggle giggle) 'Box?'
'No, I don't want a box, I'd like five 110-yen stamps. Please.'
'Yes, for a letter. Here'
(I got out a letter of the type I want the stamps for)
(She weighed it, measured it, and typed '110' on a calculator that she could show me)
'Yes. I'd like five please'
'Yes. Five 110-yen stamps please.'
(She ran away, A few minutes later she returned with five stamps (giggle giggle). Hoorah! But I wasn't allowed to take away my letter and my stamps. She made me glue down the flap of the envelope (what if I hadn't finished it?) and gave me a pen and stood over me while I put a return address on the back. But then she made no move to take my letter (went and giggled with a friend) so I (mutter mutter) picked up my letter and left. At least I got my stamps)
I think I was perhaps at the wrong counter? But it said 'mail' next to it and, if so, she should have said so! Bah.
In other news, I lost three toes and a finger to frostbite brain still thinks it's in NZ so let me go out with no gloves, scarf or hat and just a light jacket. Brrr.
I had no work to do (which is why I ended up in a strange post office) so had lunch with a friend then went to Kappabashi, also known as Kitchenware Alley, and had a lovely time mooching about the sales. I might not be able to buy clothes here but I can certainly make up for it with pottery! We'll need a bigger house when we go home.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003
back to it
that's that then, no more holiday. There were more people on the train this morning than we saw the entire time we were in New Zealand; all this being close to people again is going to take some readjustment. Went to yoga and clearly I have got taller while we were away because the ground seems much further away than it used to!
I am considering buying photoshop elements or similar to tart up our photos a bit and make managing them a bit easier - does anyone have it - any advice?
Otherwise, nothing to tell you. I feel exhausted with the effort of doing 2 hours' work and need to go and have a little lie down...

Monday, January 13, 2003
We're back. Did you miss us? I have nearly 300 digital pics to sort through (don't worry, you won't have to admire them all) - and 10 films of 'real' photos too! Be grateful I don't have a scanner...
New Zealand is a fantastic place, I recommend that you all go and visit. It's kind of a long way (from anywhere) but full of spectacular scenery, fun activities, the friendliest people I've ever encountered, and is just wonderful. Their stars are upside down (orion's sword is more like an antenna) but, rather disappointingly, the people aren't. I spent my birthday on the beach - had a swim in the sea and saw dolphins! A first for a northern-hemisphere January baby.
We have come back feeling very fat and with more laundry than you have every seen. Went for a healthy sushi lunch today and pottered around harajuku (it's a bank holiday) checking out the new fashions that have arrived since December. Furry flat caps and uneven fringes it seems.
Here are a few snaps to be going along with...
pooh, smelly! whales a snowfield and a tiny me milford sound penguin

Friday, January 03, 2003
postcard from new zealand
I've done pretty well haven't I?! But the whole holiday was just too long to stay away, so here I am - actually killing a few minutes before it's time to go and see the two towers. We are having a fantastic time - you'll have to wait a bit longer for some photos but believe me there are plenty of them. Weather has been lovely on the whole - we had horizontal rain on christmas day but that didn't matter, and it's just started to rain here in the last half hour. I'm in Queenstown, by the way. We've been to auckland (climbed a volcanic island) - rotorua (smelly) - taupo (sunburn; swam in the lake) - palmerston north (roast dinner) - wellington (relatives) - picton (kayak) - kaikoura (whales and seals) - christchurch (briefly) - franz josef glacier (flew over it; climbed up it) - wanaka (great B&B) and after here we'll be off to milford sound then dunedin. Phew! I've also noticed how strange and different this website looks on different computers - do any of you have a funny font or enormous writing, or is that purely a feature of the internet cafe? Oh, and hasn't the archers been fantastic (I've been reading it rather than listening but it's still been great).
Right. There's nothing like having the timeticking away at the bottom of the screen to curb your flow so I'll just wish you a happy new year and go to the cinema!