Monday, April 28, 2003
It must be love, he's taking me on a minibreak
(Bridget, of course).
Well, we're off tomorrow, won't be back until Friday. And because I know how much you will all miss my inane drivel, I thought I'd share my day with you. Oh when will work pick up again?
I have worked out why 1950s housewives cleaned behind their fridges (did they have fridges in the 50s?) and under the sofa and whatnot. Not through some overdeveloped sense of hygiene at all, it's because they were bored rigid. So today I cleaned behind the fridge...
OK, no I didn't. You nearly believed me there didn't you? Neither did I wear a big sticky-out frock or put a fresh ribbon in my hair when C got home from work. I did take refuge in the other time-honoured pastime of the underemployed: shopping. I tell you, it's only a matter of time before I learn to play bridge (or increase my gin intake substantially). I might as well, Cameron doesn't have the time or the inclination to spend his earnings*. I shopped for a shoe cupboard (didn't buy one but that's irrelevent) and spent a happy half-hour browsing cake tins. Yes, really. And I visited Lush before getting cross at my inability to read the packaging and buying a stack of bath bombs because at least I know what they are for. And then I came home and made Nigella's peant butter and snickers muffins, did a spot of Japanese homework (you see how desperate I've become? Still, at least now I am only 6 chapters behind the teacher, not bad at all), did some laundry and played with the cats and now it's time to veg in front of Malcolm in the Middle. Exciting, isn't it?
OK I'll shut up because I can hear the snoring from here and go and pack my bag. What does one need for a minibreak these days? (An umbrella for sure)
*transcript of a conversation we had this weekend. Me: What are you going to spend your bonus on? I think you should treat yourself. Cameron: I'm going to put it in the bank. Clueless, I tell you!

holiday snaps
Here's mum and dad in their futons in Nikko; Chris, Suzanne and Mum on a bridge in Yokohama; me and Suz and a deer in Miyajima
mum and dad Chris, Suzanne, Mum oh dear

Sunday, April 27, 2003
I leapt out of bed this morning, much to Islay's alarm, to check my jewellery box. I was right! I'd just realised that I hadn't seen my charm bracelet since we were burgled last July. OK, I know it's taken me a long time to realise, but that's because I wore it so seldom, not because I didn't love it. The charms were collected for me by my granny when I was a little girl and included a tiny silver fireman's helmet from my dad...I suppose it was something I'd imagined handing on one day to my own daughter or granddaughter. I also have a horrible feeling that my silver christening bracelet might have been in the same place.
Rubbish burglars...why didn't they take anything of real value (ie not my jewellery!) instead of things that were part of me? Nobody really gets attached to a DVD player, or a passport*, or even credit cards, annoying though it would have been. And there's a lovely little laptop here waiting. (Now I sound like an advert for burglars, which is not the intention. There's nothing here worth nicking, ok?)
(*Cameron is quite fond of his, with all its rubber stamps and visas)

all by myself (apart from Cameron and the cats)
They all left early Friday morning - getting back from the station at 7.15, I stayed up long enough to do the first of many loads of laundry, moped about a bit in the quiet, then retired to bed. When I next got up, mid-morning, it felt as though they'd left the previous day and life was back to normal. We have maintained a strict no-sights lots-of-sleep policy this weekend; Cameron was delighted when his football match was cancelled on Saturday because that meant he could fall in with my planned day of shoe-shopping! I did very well actually; a smashing pair of sandals to replace the old ones I was ashamed to put on my feet and, at last, a pair of brown suede boots. Not exactly as I wanted but they were certainly close enough for my credit card to leap into action, so hoorah! And C bought two new CDs so he is happy too.
In other news, there's a new webring on the left there, the Japan bloggers. That should occupy those spare days looming ahead (what with SARS and everything I have no work and the novelty is wearing off fast. My sister accused me of becoming 'the sort of person who has Hobbies', a fate worse than death, but what can one do?!). Actually, this week is Golden Week* so we're heading to Ise for a couple of days of (hopefully) sun, sea, shrines and wedded-rock-viewing.
*there's a stack of bank holidays all on top of each other

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
spotted today

Friday, April 18, 2003
Cameron says that I should have remembered to put that two of the guitarists have coincidentally played on David Bowie albums (when they - and DB - were much younger) and that "some of the sounds were really quite modern and interesting" (and some were as I described). Oh, and that the silence between the songs* was deathly once the polite applause had stopped - pins were noisily dropping all over the place.
*don't know what to call them...pieces? items? 'songs' doesn't seem quite appropriate

This is (not) spinal tap
Well, last night was interesting. My family have gone off to Kyoto for a couple of days, leaving us free to attend the King Crimson concert with Eiji (Big Fan, though he thinks he probably won't be going to see them again) and Yuko (she said it was 'interesting' but didn't think she'd be playing their album much when Eiji wasn't home). I can honestly say I enjoyed it more than I expected to...for those of you who don't know (which included me until very recently), King Crimson were a prog-rock-type band in the 70s, who have since faded into oblivion everywhere but Japan. They make albums that are only released here, they tour here, and they have a huge fanbase here. Apparently the guitarist is married to Toyah Wilcox (he sat in darkness all the way through and wouldn't even take a bow - odd for a man who has invited Hello magazine into his Beautiful Home). And that is all I know about them.
The venue had comfy seats and the audience was in suits. The queue at the toilets was, for once, outside the men's. The concert started at 7 and was finished by 9, a very sensible arrangement for an ageing band such as this - I expect they were in bed with a nice mug of cocoa by 10. The audience was extraordinarily quiet, nodding their heads in appreciation. I think two men shouted out some lyrics at one point but there was certainly no singing along. If I was going to be a drummer, I'd want to be in King Crimson because he got to play a lovely large range of percussion, most of which he held up nice and high so we could see the shiny metal instruments. The main singing bloke had hypnotically wobby knobbly knees, which were quite fascinating.
They had inflatable horn things on the stage and the music varied between being quite rocky and the pretentious sort of guitar-and-bells nonsense I can't abide. I felt the second encore was probably not warranted (thank you for your kindness, he said), but I was not bored (despite falling asleep for a bit), which was better than anticipated.
And then we went for yakitori. Yum.

Good to know I'm not the only one

Thursday, April 17, 2003
What the ...?
You'll be pleased to hear that I've just found my perfect pair of boots. Butter-soft suede, flat heel, mid-calf length. I was just looking at them, debating whether to get tan or a slightly lighter beigey brown and hoping they would have my size, when the man who I had (foolishly it seems) assumed was the shop assistant came and told me that it was not a shop! I was so taken aback I just said 'oh' and left, without asking what in fact it was - a shoe sanctuary? They had shelves of shoes around the walls, and the shoes were priced. They didn't have a display window, but that hadn't worried me
Curiouser and curiouser. Now what am I going to wear on my feet?

Monday, April 14, 2003
In other exciting news, the plane bringing my mum, dad, sister and brother in law to Japan has just landed! I will probably be quiet for the next couple of weeks, as I count heads on and off trains (it would be bad to lose one) and do my tour-guide routine.

Sunday, April 13, 2003
wouldn't it be luvverly
I have no idea whether anyone reads this who actually lives in Tokyo, but if anybody does I have a challenge for you. All I want to make my life complete is 1. a pair of white trousers that is not see-through and doesn't make me look like an overstuffed sausage and 2. a pair of boots: brown (preferably suede), mid-calf length, not too high a heel. There'll be a reward* for anyone who supplies information leading to discovery of said items.
Ever hopeful.
*it may not be huge

Friday, April 11, 2003
I had my small adventure yesterday. One of Cameron's colleagues very kindly invited him to visit his house, and even more kindly (since he had never met me) said I could go too. So I took the train out to Ebina, to be met by his wife and son. A moment's worry (how will they find me?) disappeared when I got off the train and realised there was not another gaijin face to be seen - certainly not another one standing on the side of the road looking hopefully at passing cars! We had a bit of a drive around; it is pleasantly rural (well, there are rice fields and pretty yellow flowers and few enough buildings that you could see the distant mountains) and I saw the outside of Cameron's office, with its row of cherry trees. I don't know what he's complaining about. Then back to their house for a cup of tea and a chat - fortunately Naoko's english is excellent (unlike my spelling of Japanese names; hope that's correct!) as she lived in Putney for 3 years. At 6 o'clock there was a jingling chiming tune from somewhere outside, which she explained was the signal for all the children out playing to go back home - and home they went! How very...Japanese!
Cameron and Mitsui-san arrived home shortly afterwards which was the cue for G&T or beer (what a civilised household they are), a nose around the house, which was much bigger than either of us expected (I think we had imagined a city-centre style shoebox), and a delicious dinner of sushi and lasagne. Yum!

Yesterday morning at my cooking class, the teacher's husband joined in! Well, he first came home with some sprouty things he'd picked (he is very keen on plants and often comes home with something; the kitchen is full of drying herbs and edible plants that he has sourced somewhere in the city) and - I think because I expressed an interest (must learn to stop doing that) - cooked them to make a salad with mayonnaise. They were pretty tasty but I have not a clue what they were. Then he gathered up all our leftover rice (we were making sushi and had cooked enough rice to feed four even though we were just two) and made a huge man-style maki roll (man-style: kind of thrown together and rough looking, not immaculately neat as it would be had his wife made it) that he chopped up and served to us. This was on top of the sushi and soup we'de made ourselves, but it seemed rude to refuse.

This is a nice article. I, like the author, spent my teenage years moaning and groaning and dragging my feet around yet another garden centre only to wake up one spring morning suddenly filled with enthusiasm for greenery.

new beginnings
April here is the season for new ventures. A new school year; a new job. Every time I stepped on a train at the beginning of the week I was surrounded either by small boys in too-big blazers accompanied by their proudly besuited pastel mums, or by swarms of new graduates in their shiny new suits off to be indoctrinated, sorry, inducted, into the Company Way. Now, Friday, the boys' blazers are still waiting to be grown into but the mums have been replaced by friends and the new salary-people are looking laid back and cool on the commute to work.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Dear me, I've just re-read the last post and I sound like I'm about 90! Gardening, Fred n Audrey, Elvis and Abba?! I am young and hip* I promise...I just can't think of a single thing to say that will prove it just now.
*is it ok to say 'hip' or does that make me sound really old? Oh blimey, now I sound like Marge Simpson (I don't care if I'm cool...and that's what makes me cool, right?!')

small pleasures, small pleasures
OK, I know I said I'd go and have an adventure (or do something stupid) for your amusement, but somehow it's nearly 4 o'clock so I'm guessing it's not going to happen today. Sorry. This war and SARS thing is doing nothing for my workload; meetings being cancelled left, right and centre means that there's nothing for me to do. Not that I mind too much (I'm on day 3 - more than 5 starts to get a bit desperate), I've had a lovely day filled with small activities (or 'monging' as it is popularly known). Do you know, I haven't found time to study Japanese or go to the gym? Amazing.
  • A couple of guilt-free hours surfing the net this morning (this is a nice blog I hadn't seen before - her oh-so-familiar shopping habit made me smile) then had the year's first iced coffee out on the patio with the cats and my tulips wide open to the sun.
  • Repotted my new rosemary plant; hoed the garden. The cats helped (sorry, it's just cats cats cats here at the moment isn't it) by pouncing on my hand every time I dived into the azalea to pull out the weeds (they're not weeds, they're triffids). I'm hoping that some sort of gardening/rental karma will ensure our tenants back home look after my garden a bit. And then their tenants in Canada will look after their garden (except, from her bewildered expression when we encountered her in our garden last August, I'm guessing they don't have one) and the world will be full of happy cared-for gardens. It already seems to be full of people living thousands of miles from their houses.
  • Brown bread! A tip-off led to yesterday's discovery of proper brown bread in the freezer department, of all places, of the international supermarket. I had some toasted with peanut butter for my lunch; bliss. Just imagine you've had no bread that doesn't resemble polystyrene, other than loaves you've made yourself, for a year. How good does that granary slice taste now?
  • Baking biscuits while dancing and singing along with Elvis Presley, my current favourite cooking music. Abba is best for tidying up, Elvis for cooking. Trust me on this. (I made Nigella's spanish macaroons and these. I made these a couple of weeks ago, and they were nice, but not nice enough to warrant the hassle: look at that ingredients list! I'm hoping Delia's will be similar while only taking 10 minutes to measure and mix.)
    Last night's planned small pleasure was a miserable failure - I rented funny face: Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, what could go wrong? Well, Cameron declared it to be one of the worst films he'd ever seen and had to make toast in compensation; I struggled for a minute, loath to admit it (it's a musical! It's got Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire!) but was forced to agree and join him at the toaster. Never, never watch it.

  • Tuesday, April 08, 2003
    I feel the earth move under my feet
    I really must make an effort to get out and about and do something interesting to tell you about. Today I went to yoga then the supermarket, then came home and had a bath, fell asleep for a bit, and am now waiting for the supermarket to deliver my groceries before the cats start to eat me or each other. But it is pouring with rain and the lull between the storms (Cameron's family have gone; mine arrive on Monday) so that's my excuse. We were woken up in the middle of the night by an earth tremor - felt like quite a big one though I was a bit dazed and confused and still half asleep (and I don't know how to find out now). It certainly went on for quite a long time. I still haven't sussed whether they make a noise or not, which is odd. They feel like they should but I never know, afterwards.
    Um. No, just dull dull dull. Go and read the latest Kate-ism or back tomorrow; I'll make it a mission to go somewhere good. (Oh, unless I have to work of course).

    Monday, April 07, 2003
    Feeling relaxed today after a lovely weekend. It rained so hard on Saturday I was afraid I'd drown if I left the house, and Cameron had gone to some silly motor race (he nearly did drown) so I had a lazy day, reading and sewing and listening to the radio 4 dramatisation of the subtle knife (which was so good I've ordered the box-set) and baking and playing with the cats and generally pottering about. Oh, and I did all today's work so I've got a day off. Then yesterday was bright and sunny and we went to a hanami in a place whose name translates as 1000 cherry trees (but apparently it only has 990 or so). We saw Fuji and everything (sorry Tom!). And the petals fell like snow.
    pink pink

    Friday, April 04, 2003
    No blossom today
    Not because I haven't seen any - I did and it was beeeeautiful - but because I didn't have my camera with me. I saw it from the window of a friend's car as we were taking the cats to the vet for their annual vaccinations, and I was more concerned about the fact that they were crying (Not Good Travellers) and Islay had had an "accident". Bad enough normally, but embarrassing in someone else's car. Poor little thing. Anyway, we got there and Tina started to take them out of their boxes outside, which worried me a little until we went in and I realised why. I have never in my life seen such a small space and the vet was coping with me and my two skittish cats (who were actually fine once out of the car and allowed to walk about and explore), a sad-looking cat on a drip in a box, Tina, his assistant, and a girl with a small puppy in a big box. Chaos doesn't begin to describe it. And then a family arrived (mum, dad, young boy with bandaged knees. My Japanese wasn't good enough to understand what they wanted - they didn't appear to have an animal - so I concluded that they had brought their son in for treatment.)
    Anyway, I now have vaccinated cats who have been irritatingly clingy all day; I'm choking in cat hair (moulting season). And that's my news. They're good, blogs about cats, aren't they?!

    Thursday, April 03, 2003
    today's blossom
    comes from Meguro. The writing on the pink bit of the lantern says 'meguro river cherry blossom festival' (I am so clever).
    pink pink pink
    And finally, here is my last page of New Zealand photos. I defy anyone not to think Milford Sound is the most beautiful place in the world.

    Wednesday, April 02, 2003
    One whole year
    Yesterday started with all good intentions. I was going to write a lovely long post celebrating the fact that we'd survived a year in this strange city. Actually, I was hoping that Cameron, feeling celebratory, would make his first post. But regardless, a post there would be. But then I left my mobile phone in the ladies' loo at the cinema on the other side of town, not realising until I was 15 minutes from home. Gah! So, I had to go all the way back, past the ticket barriers by means of some confusion (my ticket wouldn't let me out as I'd gone in the same place and not travelled anywhere. Of course I had - I'd been nearly home and back again - but there was no way I could explain that, so I confronted the ticket man with ungrammatical bursts of japanese ''t speak' and smiled apologetically and eventually he got fed up and fixed my ticket to let me through. I didn't even have to pay for that ride on the tube!), back to the cinema/shopping complex, couldn't find the same toilets for a while then when I did - no phone. I found a cleaner and asked her but she gaped at me in what I thought was a most unhelpful manner (my Japanese wasn't that bad!). Eventually I found an information desk with a lovely, pretty, sweetly helpful girl manning it. She made me describe my phone in some detail then rang...somewhere, and hooray! they had it! So she sent me off with a post-it covered in kanji, to reclaim my phone. I have no idea what that place was. Police? Don't think so. If it was lost property though it was very official - they had uniforms and plate glass and everything. (security? coastguards? dog wardens? no idea.) I had to fill in a form, prove I was who I said I was, let them photocopy my ID card, then prove it was my phone by reciting its number then making the phone display the number to match. A good job I'd given somebody my number earlier that day because that's not something I usually remember.
    Anyway, the outcome was that I had my phone but didn't get home until 8, by which point I didn't want to go for a celebratory dinner (it was pouring with rain too) so we had wine and pizza and watched a dvd, during which we both fell asleep. Happy Anniversary!

    Tuesday, April 01, 2003
    Last night Cameron went to his first hanami (cherry-blossom viewing party) where they drank beer and ate meat and rigged up lights with a diesel engine (?) and shivered a lot saying samui (cold). Just like a British barbeque then. We are both going to one on Sunday though, as it's raining today and forecast for the rest of the week, it's debatable whether there will be any blossom left by then. Not that I suppose that will make a difference.
    I stayed home with a nice glass of wine and a big chunk of dairy milk, and I have a fluffy film recommendation for all the girls out there. Have you see the princess diaries? Wait until all males leave the house before watching though, it's not worth the pain otherwise. (Note: if you hated miss congeniality, pretty woman, or can't buy me love, ignore me, you'll hate this one too.)

    don't say I didn't warn you
    pink pink
    Today's blossom comes to you from Aoyama cemetery.