Saturday, May 31, 2003
Cameron's office plays music (or, often, recorded birdsong) just before 9 in the mornings. I think there might be music for physical jerks at some point too, but wake-up music is played first thing. The tune yesterday morning was apparently the strauss waltz from 'one flew over the cuckoo's nest'! How apt.

Thursday, May 29, 2003
After Helen commented on the previous post, I went and had a look on the Guardian's website. I couldn't find the one she mentioned (Helen, give us more of a clue!) but I did like this article on homeworking (from the Observer actually) - she's got me spot on in the first paragraph and I love the bit about the hoovering barrister!

Unconnected thoughts
1. I can dish out the advice but do I listen to myself? In the past 2 weeks I have advised two women who have come here as accompanying spouse and can't find work that they should just make the most of it...see it as an many people get given 2 years in which, not only can they afford not to work, they are not expected to work...
I'd just find it easier if it had been my choice.
But I am trying so, in that spirit, here's a list of Good Things About Not Working (trust me, these lists are so much easier to make when you are stressed, stuck at a desk and dealing with horrible people.)
  • Glorious May can be spent outside rather than gazing at it from a hot office.
  • I can stay reading my book in a coffee shop for an hour if I want to. Today, I wanted to.
  • I can come home by bus instead of underground, even though it takes longer, because it's more interesting.
  • Daytime cinema - still feels like skiving!, midweek shopping.
  • Sitting on the patio (this one really belongs in my 'list of good things about May' because I could still do it if I was working. But it's nice.)
  • I never, never have to deal with my fax machine, which scares me with its erratic ways. It just sits innocuously on my desk pretending to be a phone.
    Um. No, I'm struggling. Help me out, you desk-bound employees?
    2. Tips on etiquette to man in travel agent this afternoon: the whole building really does't need to know that your pants are f*cked; similarly, when presented with your invoice by the travel agent, holy shit! at the top of your voice is not a very appropriate response.
    3. My cooking buddy is moving to Hawaii for 3 years! Obviously I'm delighted for her, not a bad place to be an expat, but I'll miss her at the lessons. On the other hand, there was a new girl (from Hawaii, coincidentally) there today who might be friendly.
    4. Mosquitoes, the bane of my summertime (I'd rather deal with cockroaches, at least they don't actually attack). Does anyone know how I can repel them without actually bathing in citronella oil or wearing eau de DDT as my summer fragrance?
    5. Islay, clearly feeling left out after yesterday's Jura-post (I'm sorry, posting about your cats is the lowest of the low isn't it), cost me a tenner today! Bah. She didn't come home when I wanted to leave for my cooking class - and she is much less obliging than Jura, having a tendancy to sit quietly sniggering to herself when she knows we want her (Jura roams further but can't resist answering a call - what if there was food involved?!) - meaning I had to go by taxi rather than tube. How decadent! She sashayed in, 20 minutes after I should have left, disdainfully sniffed the bribery-biscuits I had noisily dished up to tempt her home, and retired to bed.
    6. If anyone reading this lives in Tokyo, my maid is looking for another day (or two half-days) of work as one of her employers is leaving. I happen to know that another one is off this summer too so that will be another half day. She's very nice, very good, a bit insane but completely trustworthy. Very insane. But in an amusing way.
    7. I've found a new TV channel and it shows Frasier! This is Very Exciting Indeed - previously I have had three channels that sometimes show something I want to watch [the Mystery Channel (Morse, Taggart); Fox (Malcolm in the Middle, King of the Hill, Buffy and Friends for a Friday-night veg), BBCWorld (Benedict Allan and, grudgingly, the news. Oh and Click Online is hilarious)] so this represents a significant increase. I don't think it is actually new, but I typed in the wrong number and there it was! Only Frasier clashed with Taggart last night (not literally - Taggart would win such a contest for sure!). Bah. I'm going to have to try to work the video.

  • Wednesday, May 28, 2003
    Nivea 'lift and smooth'
    Product advice needed from somebody in an English-speaking country please. Do any of you girls have a bottle of nivea 'lift and smooth' (or could you nip to Boots in your lunch-hour and have a look). What's it for please? I bought it, not noticing the 'lift and smooth', because it was labelled body-lotion. It smells like mouthwash and makes your skin tingly and cold like toothpaste, as well as being slightly sticky. What is it supposed to be lifting and smoothing?

    euw, slime!
    I've just spent a strangely satisfying yet shockingly wasteful time feeding my waste disposal. Who knew food would go off so quickly? (I suspect because it was out at room temperature all day saturday - if not, there's something wrong with my fridge). It started when I tried to track down the strange smell, which turned out to emanate from a plate of lemons that had grown white mould; the litre of couscous had gone pink (that's interesting, isn't it? Like the pink mould that showers grow) and smelt foul; the entire sherry trifle went too because clearly we were not going to manage it (and the cream was off) and then I started getting disposal-happy so everything else in my fridge that was or could be even slightly suspect went too! It's as though a burden has been lifted; I no longer need feel obliged to eat leftovers, or even think about eating leftovers, but can have something New! and Fresh! for my tea. It seems Nigel Slater is correct ("They will only dry up and haunt you every time you open the fridge door. You might as well throw them away in the first place.") He is so wise.

    Jura doesn't always come when called; she's a cat not a boomerang. There have been notable occasions when we've been late for appointments waiting for her to show up - I am far too overprotective a 'mother' to leave her shut outside. But this morning, when I was keen to get her inside quickly because I was running late, I could hear a plaintive miaowing that suggested she wasn't staying out voluntarily. Was she up a tree? Stuck on a roof? Hurt somewhere? After calling up and down the road for her (what must the neighbours think? Baka gaijin*!) and cross-referencing her cries, I realised she was shut in the garage of one of our neighbours. Bearing in mind I was already late, I was in a bit of a flap so nearly all my Japanese left me (as it does so often when I really need it). I buzzed the intercom.
    Sumimasen. Watashi no neko wa, garage (I don't know the Japanese for garage) desu (Excuse me. My cat is the garage.) Why I couldn't manage 'my cat is in the garage' I have no idea - in times of pressure, language skills are the first to go. She clearly had no idea what I was saying (Excuse me, I am an english-speaking person) but she understood garage, of all things, and came out. I called Jura! and mimed listening, then she understood (Ohh. Your cat!) and unlocked the door. My mime skills are well-honed. All the neighbours seem to know Jura, and the lady picked her up and brought her to me like they were old friends! Warui neko (bad cat) I scolded, in between bowing and apologising. Note to self: must establish whether it is OK to use warui, bad, to mean naughty, as we would, or whether it means she is inept as a cat (and would be a better hamster).
    *crazy foreigner
    The reason I was rushing was that Martyn (father of Amy of growing-up diary fame) was in town! Straight off a plane and en route to a conference in Tsukuba, he fitted in a quick social call. He's coming back for sightseeing and stuff on Sunday, but today I met his bus and took him for coffee to ascertain whether he was compos mentis after his long flight (answer: not especially) before mooching a little around the Imperial Palace gardens (who says I don't know all the best places). I think the heat was getting to him, so the next stop was a beer and lunch. He had said he didn't feel up to sushi just yet, straight off the plane and all, so I thought tempura would be safe...the first thing we were given was crisp-fried shrimp heads with the legs attached. Pretty tasty actually, though it might have been better had the chef waited until after we'd eaten to explain what it was. The restaurant walls had pictures of famous people who had visited (Bill Clinton, Gorbachev); I wonder if they all ate shrimp heads?
    In other news: Phew, wot a scorcher! 27° here today. I wore my new sandals, believing them to be comfy; I've got blisters in places I have never previously had blisters and it feels as though I have no skin left under my heels. Ow!

    Tuesday, May 27, 2003
    Yoga and shopping
    Reading and cooking
    The Archers, net surfing
    And a nap

    A classic episode of The Archers yesterday, with Alan Titchmarsh wanting Clarrie's gardening tips, flirting with Joleen and meeting the llamas. A pleasant change from the recent tedium and misery.
    Jim has come up with earthquake prevention precautions that I will be sure to follow in the future. Apparently only 70-odd people were injured, which is really quite amazing. Rumour has it the cause was different from the predicted 'big one', so we still have the threat of that to come. One girl at yoga asked if she was the only person who didn't notice it, to which the answer was a resounding YES! She must have good shock absorbers.

    Monday, May 26, 2003
    You read it here first!!

    If you are, like us, the sort of person who gets hooked on mindless computer games, look away now. If, however, you are somebody who can play nicely for a bit but knows how to stop, you might like to have a go at bejewelled (link filched from Adrian).
    I am not especially looking forward to this week, mainly because Cameron is out every night (as he was last week too. Why can't his visitors learn to space themselves a little?) - though he says he might be home for tea on Thursday. Today he has gone to Nagoya, and is not expected home until 1 am! I can't cook for one so end up eating leftovers every other day. Though I did have lunch out today so it might have to be beans on toast. (No more couscous salad, I can't stand it!).
    My day: I played bejewelled - a lot (not being the sort of person who can leave well alone) - watched half of Gabriel and me, which was lovely (I am going to go and watch the end shortly), had lunch with some shellwives then went to this exhibition. I didn't understand most of it, I confess.
    Then came home to sit through yet another earthquake - this one pretty big (a 7 on the Japanese scale - I have no idea how that might relate to the richter scale) but far from here in Northern Honshu - just a 3 here. It went on for long enough for me and the cats to get scared and I'd even moved to get their boxes (just in case) before it stopped.

    Kurt has some particularly nice arty Sumo pictures; I think he's in danger of becoming a groupy! And today we are sad again - so near, twice in a week! But Cameron has taken his melancholy off to Nagoya and I expect I'll cope.

    Sunday, May 25, 2003
    Well, that all seemed to go quite well. If you were wondering, the correct answer to last week's question how much can 30 people eat? is not nearly as much as you might think which, while better than running out of food with people still hungry, does mean we have rather a surplus. So if anyone reading this is in the vicinity and wants to pop by for, say, an entire sherry trifle, several hundredweight of couscous salad or a litre of hummous, feel free. I can probably give you a case or two of beer to wash it down with. Oh, and if you're still peckish I have 60 mini-quiches and 40-odd samosas in the freezer that never made an appearance.
    People seemed to have a nice time though. Cameron was kept quite busy conducting tours of the house (while I just said 'of course you can look, off you go') - at one point he went into our bedroom to find it full of people playing; one child was pushing buttons on the phone, another was wearing our rug and being a sheep. As long as they were happy!

    Thursday, May 22, 2003
    since you asked...
    no, they weren't too sweaty. What a revolting question! The bouts were generally over quite quickly (though if they went on at all the sweat started to run. It can't be healthy.) when we were sitting close enough to see. By the time they were lasting more than a minute, I was thankfully sitting far too far away to spot any glistening.

    What big bottoms! Being my account of yesterday's sumo.
    I skipped my cooking class today, which is bad because it's usually one of my favourite things. But I'm still feeling distinctly under the weather and decided some time at home was just what I needed. And I am a doctor, you know! No work, so I've pottered about the web and the house, tidying up in both cases. Today is Maid Day so I think I'll have to go out this afternoon, but some fresh air probably wouldn't go amiss either. More party shopping, I suppose; it just occurred to me about 4 this morning that even if we have enough food for 30, we have nothing like enough plates to put it all on, so I'm off to the 100-yen shop to see what I can find.
    Cameron is not happy today. He got up at 4 am specially - about the time I was thinking about plates - but they didn't win. What a shame.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2003
    A new place to visit
    Matt at the adventures of flossie is very funny (wry smiles rather than laugh-out-loud) and has finally got comments. To celebrate, I've added him to my blogroll, where he should have been ages ago.


    little things
    It's amazing how activities expand to fill the day. I'm sure my feeble language skills have much to do with it, but some things just take longer here. Today was filled with a trip to the supermarket and taking my camera in to get repaired. The supermarket trip was long, expensive and very boring. We have 30 (THIRTY!!!) of Cameron's colleagues coming here on Saturday afternoon. How much can 30 people drink and eat? A lot, I reckon. And where will they sit? (That's not my problem, it will have to be musical chairs.) Fortunately it's an afternoon party so they won't (I hope!) be expecting a proper meal, but I still had to buy several crates of beer, wine, soft drinks, umpteen bags of crisps, 120 mini-quiches, dips and sweets and bread for sandwiches, paper plates, plastic forks, and I haven't even thought about making desserts yet. The trolley was groaning under its weight and I refuse to discuss how much it cost. (Note to self: must buy more toilet roll, it would be bad to run out.)
    Next on the agenda was the returning of the camera. I did quite well actually - back to the shop where I bought it, said in very careful Japanese this camera is broken. I bought it here last December. It has new batteries but it doesn't work, and woe betide anyone who interrupted my carefully rehearsed speech. The chap put three different new sets of batteries in before believing me, then told me I had to take it to the service centre. His English wasn't bad so I asked him to teach me repair and warranty in Japanese, and he found me a map. In Japanese, but I was on a roll by then, made him mark landmarks and shops that I knew, and set off.
    shinjuku skyscraper (phone picture, hence quality) East Shinjuku is in one way very easy to navigate as each skyscraper occupies one block. On the other hand, all those skyscrapers make it very difficult to see more than one block in any direction to get your bearings. And they all just look like skyscrapers unless you are very familiar with them.

    So. Into the service centre where I got quite needlessly paranoid, believing the staff to be taking longer and longer to press the 'next customer' button in a bid to not have to deal with me (a sure sign I've been in Japan too long without a break, such paranoia) then did my rehearsed speech again including my new words. What a sweet little man! I believe he was flirting with me, and he fiddled with the camera for ages, even managing to retrieve the film that was stuck, before deciding there was something wrong inside and sending it off for repair.
    Unfortunately it won't be back until next week, which means I can't take it with me to the sumo tomorrow. I'll tell you all about that once I've been; I'm going with two sumo groupies so will be full of interesting facts I'm sure.
    And tonight I'm going out for dinner! Kavitha and I are going to eat french onion soup and whinge about being unemployed. But it does mean that we won't pick on our husbands for, respectively, dragging me away from my great job and full time maid in India and going out having fun every night and leaving me at home. To be fair to Cameron, he's at a conference on oil or fuel or engine lubrication or something; how much fun can it be?! And, actually, I'm starting to quite enjoy 'resting' (who said unemployed?!).

    The BBC's list of the UK's best-loved novels contains some strange choices (link half-inched from Karen) but I am feeling quite smug because I've read 53 of them!

    Monday, May 19, 2003
    I've got a guestbook! It's over there, on the left. Just under the archives. Please go and sign it so I don't feel sad and lonely (in fact, if nobody signs it it will just be too, too tragic and I'll have to remove it again). It's easy, just like you have at a B&B only you don't have to be nice about my breakfasts. Except I never sign them at B&Bs either.

    The trouble with not working, you can't go and buy pointlessly frivolous things without feeling more than the usual small twinge of guilt.
    The other trouble with not working, you have loads of free time in which to peruse shops full of pointlessly frivolous things.
    The trouble with my hairdresser, you can't get back to the station from it without walking past French Connection. French Connection is Very Exciting, selling British-style pointlessly frivolous things in British sizes. Nobody reasonable could expect me to resist.
    But still. I'm sure Cameron would rather spend his salary on, oh I don't know, the mortgage or our enormous phone bill. I'd better make something nice for tea!
    The hairdresser claimed that my hair has 'changed', becoming 'wavy'. She is clearly delusional as I have hair that makes a roman road look curvy, but I expect it's the humidity. I am hoping this is the rainy season come early, meaning that it might be nice and dry in June when we have visitors, but fear it is just a warm-up. I'm not sure how you tell if it's rainy-season rain, or just rain.
    Nothing much happened this weekend, very quiet. I snivelled into lots of tissues and Cameron played football. We had the best Indian meal we've had in Japan on Friday night, though they of course served the rice separately at the end of the meal, which was a bit strange. And it was Japanese short-grain not delicious Indian basmati. But still, yum. There was a fair-sized earthquake about 11.30 on Saturday night and on Sunday we went to visit some friends. All very sedate.

    Saturday, May 17, 2003
    Be nice to me
    I'b god a code.
    I don't get colds (well, clearly I do now!) and this is my second this year. I blame the nasty Japanese bugs, reckon they're different from the British bugs I am nicely immune to. I'm off to investigate whether lemsip is available here. Sniff.

    Friday, May 16, 2003
    (In response to Kavitha's nice comment on this post)
    Calories no idea, how many are there in a raw fish? Cigarettes 1 (involuntarily. Stinky man sitting next to me in coffee shop), Alcoholic units 0. V. v. g. (so far). Liable to get v bad later, what with it being a friday and all. Chocolate biscuits: 4. Small ones so really only like eating 1, which is allowed by all the best nutritionists. Unnecessary items of clothing and books purchased: 5 (v. bad).
    Up early (v. good) fed cats, read email, decided to go to week's second yoga class in bid to get fit. C wants to climb Fuji in July. Ha ha, I said. Turns out he is not joking!! Popped back to bed to wait for shower. Woke up at 9.30, missed yoga. Will go next week. Important to pace oneself when in training.
    Sushi lunch with G. Apparently some friend of hers was looking after a Very Expensive bottle of wine for her but has lost it! I suggested looking down the back of the sofa, she said not to be silly, it was a bottle of wine. My comic genius remains unrecognised.
    Amazing how spending cheers me up. Went to the bookshop where G looked for 'the sorts of books we read' (where did she get the idea I only read trashy thrillers? I am far more well-rounded than that. I like trashy thrillers AND trashy chick-lit). Gah!

    It's that time again
    A couple of searches that have led people here in the past couple of days:
  • stupid sensible interesting polite quite intelligent women Um. Thanks. I think. (I'm glad the searcher only wanted 'quite intelligent' women, searching for very intelligent women could have led to all sorts of trouble)
  • Ian and Sara They're in Chester, I think. Not here anyway.
  • my socks my tights I haven't got them! Have you looked in your drawer?
  • advent candles coat hangers blue peter In May?

  • Thursday, May 15, 2003
    I am a domestic goddess
    Excuse me while I go and smugly pop my home-made loaf in the oven.
    Ok, got that out of my system, now who wants to know what I did yesterday? I must be getting old and soft because I've been too tired (until now) today to type. Which is unfortunate, because for the first time in a fortnight I actually had some work to do!
    Last night I saw Chicago and it was fantastic! I want to go again this weekend. CZJ is just fabulous. We saw it at the new Roppongi Hills complex, which is also pretty fabulous. Dinner after the film was less fabulous - the food was delicious but the restaurant was too trendy for its own good (who wants to eat next to a torrential waterfall - not only could we not hear each other speak, I had to go to the loo every 10 minutes - and the plastic chairs and tables were fixed to the floor, spaced at distances precisely calculated to be uncomfortable and cause most of your dinner to end up down your front). Oh, but it looked good. The staff were far too cool to do anything as undignified as carry plates, with the result that we didn't eat until after 10 and I didn't get home until midnight! On a school night! Shocking, I think. When I got home, Cameron was lying on the sofa in precisely the same position as he had been when I'd left the house 15 hours earlier. He says he went to Nagoya in between, but I'm not sure I believe him.
    During the day (not sure why I'm doing this backwards) I went to Kamakura for a temple-crawl. All well until my camera packed in, I hope I don't have to deal with warranties and stuff in Japanese. At present I'm assuming it just needs a rest.
    giant spider sculpture at Roppongi Hills a big buddha it is huge brolly
    Outside the big buddha we were approached by a gang of lads. Probably about 20; didn't look fit enough to be military nor bright enough (Alison's words, not mine!) to be college students.
    Lad: Are you American?
    Me: No
    Lad: Oh, but you can speak English
    Me (immediately going into slightly snotty and terribly english mode): Yes.
    Lad: Where are you from?
    Me and Alison: England.
    Lad: One day I'd love to visit Amsterdam and those other places England is famous for. I'm from New York.
    Me: Oh.
    Lad: Do you know where yakasuka is
    Alison and I helpfully embark on a game of 20 questions, attempting to establish what yakasuka is
    Alison (eventually): Is it a shrine?
    Lad: No, it's a city. Like Tokyo
    Me: Yokohama?
    Lad: Yes. Do you know where it is?
    Fortunately our bus arrived and we escaped (though not before helpfully explaining exactly how to get to Yokohama). How on earth these boys had ended up in Kamakura (a small town, quite famous but not generally stumbled across by accident) without knowing where Yokohama is, I have no idea. Anyway, it just goes to show, doesn't it. Something. And I draw no conclusions whatsoever from their nationality, not being keen to be accused of American-bashing.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2003
    Cameron's new minidisc player is tiny. Teeny. Eensy. And it's gold and shiny.
    So small he can pop it in his pocket while he dances to the music it's playing, or jogs on the spot. (As he demonstrated last night).
    He says mine is practical while his is cool.

    Monday, May 12, 2003
    here - our Saturday, in photos, for the may day project

    Not as good as her previous books, in my opinion. Probably better-written, with a story that gradually unfolds (what I think is described as a 'sophisticated narrative structure') but I only laughed out loud once.

    don't panic!
    I got dressed this morning considering what I'd want to be wearing if I was lying in the wreckage of my house waiting to be pulled out*...four earth tremors in the past 24 hours has left me a little skittish. For the first I was sitting out on the patio - I haven't been outside while the ground was shaking before and it was peculiar. The stone lantern wobbled and rattled then, after it stopped, all the crows flew off shrieking. A largish tremor, quite a long one, woke us up last night (about 1.30 according to Kurt). Its aftershock was also prolonged and quite violent. Then a gentle tremor about a hour ago reminded me not to get complacent.
    Think I might go and buy some tins of food, just in case. And a hard hat.
    *comfy leisurewear, in case you were wondering

    Saturday, May 10, 2003
    Today's news
    The Guardian has got a Japan special today: Tama the seal and a cult that believes he will save the world. What is this, silly season?

    Friday, May 09, 2003
    I know why people go out on a Friday night
    We have, I think, seven TV channels that I consider watching. The Mystery Channel in its wisdom has replaced my regular Friday-night Morse fix with Heartbeat. Heartbeat! Where's the mystery in that? I might write to the paper. Disgruntled, I checked the other channels: I could spend the evening at BBC World with its alternating, repeating news and weather programmes, watch Buffy-Angel-Buffy on Fox, or pick a film that I've seen before, a film I don't want to see (till murder do us part 2?), or one that is in Japanese.
    But hoorah! I bought a lovely new book today that I was intending to save until I'd finished my present book (what do you mean, I still could?) and until I had oodles of free time, knowing that (if it's as good as her previous ones) I will not eat, drink, sleep, speak or, probably, move very much until I've finished it.
    I know what I'm doing tonight!

    what do you think about this?
    There's an ad in the free classifieds asking for crew ('no experience necessary') for a yacht for trips this summer. I was all set to email them and volunteer - no experience but I really really love boats - until the thought popped into my head that it might be some rich weirdo luring women onto his boat to molest and murder. Am I being overly paranoid do you think? I don't really have any friends here I can drag along for moral support (also to act as a decoy in case of molestation and murder) so I don't know what to do. It doesn't seem entirely sensible does it. Or should I just stop reading trashy papers?
    Can we have a vote please. And if I shouldn't go, does anyone have any suggestions what I should do with all this spare time (polite ones!)

    happy birthday dad!
    Your card is on its way.
    Too knackered to write much else, went to yoga this morning - there are two teachers (nice teacher, nasty teacher) and today's class was much harder than I'm used to. She's not nasty, she just has high expectations; like, I can contort myself into a little knot, touch the floor without bending my knees, do plank - chattarunga - up dog - down dog 45 times in a row without screaming, that sort of thing. Then lunch with a friend turned into a visit to the Bunkamura for an exhibition of Millet paintings (mostly french peasants, not really my cup of tea). Might have a little lie down now...

    Thursday, May 08, 2003
    we love you Yolly, we do
    I know I am very spoilt, but how fabulous to have a clean house and no mountain of ironing. Our maid came back after 2 weeks away (she went back to the Phillipines to see her son graduate and meet her grandson for the first time. Apparently her son got his 18-year-old girlfriend pregnant and they're not even married! (her exclamation, not mine) But the boy is very cute even though his mother is very young! (She exclaims every sentence I'm afraid) But then, she often exclaims over how young I am so I'm not sure her perspective of age is all it could be). Even though I tried while she was away (shut up, I did) I hadn't realised just how filthy it must have been because this evening everything is glistening and even Cameron noticed. A clean, tidy house makes me feel all calm inside, not screwed up and stressed. You'd think I'd remember that when I was feeling anxious, wouldn't you?

    I'm feeling very proud of myself, and not just because it's sin of the day (here). Look what I did!

    Before and after. As my "career" spirals ever downward (I am currently describing myself as a 'resting' freelancer) I am considering hiring myself out as a flat-pack-furniture-putter-togetherer, only it probably wouldn't be very lucrative would it. And you wouldn't be able to do all the muttering and swearing and stomping off upstairs to check your email while you psych yourself up for the next stage before blaming the cat when it goes wrong that you do in your own house; I'd have to be professional and, probably, wear a boiler suit. Which does nothing for me, darling.
    And a happy birthday to Caroline. There are a lot of birthdays this month.
    Oh, and thanks to tokyo writer, my fame is spreading. She's written an article about blogging in this month's kansai time out (unfortunately the article isn't online) and she gives this site as an example. Want to feel like you are eavesdropping into someone else's life? Then this is the one for you. Traditional diary-style blog. Well, I'm not sure I like being described as traditional (I am just an old-fashioned girl) - I'd prefer '"cutting edge" or, I don't know "intelligent and stylish" - but how kind. I am just going to have to give the site a wacky makeover or start making political observations or something.

    Wednesday, May 07, 2003
    Oh if flat-pack furniture wasn't enough of a trauma without the instructions being in Japanese!
    Do we own a screwdriver?

    2.30, and it's still not arrived. Bah. They did, however, ring me up to gabble in incomprehensible Japanese; I said six or seven times very politely and in my best Japanese that I was very sorry but I couldn't understand and would he please speak slowly and simply, which made him tell me slowly and simply where he was from and that he had a delivery for me, but even the seventh time he still did the bit after that too fast for me and with difficult grammar and words I didn't know, and now I don't know what to do! He might have said thirty-something, but it wasn't thirty minutes, because I'd have recognised that; besides, that would have been half an hour ago. So I'm still confined to barracks and I really hope he didn't try to tell me he wasn't coming after all because if that is the case 1. I will be Very Cross and 2. when is he coming instead?
    By the way, it's my little sister's birthday today so Happy Birthday Suzanne! (Even though she can't read this on her silly internet access system, aka her telly)

    bored. bored bored bored
    Got to wait in for a delivery. They said between 9 and 2; what's the betting it arrives at 1.59? The only thing that would have made it arrive at 9 would be me either risking it and popping out, or being in the shower at that time.
    There's a huge difference between monging about the house through sloth and doing it because you have to be here. I want to go out and play!
    I might post something about my cats later, that will be interesting for everyone. Islay is currently asleep on our bed; Jura is sitting outside the front door because she doesn't seem to have worked out how to get from there to the patio door (though she can do it the other way round, stupid animal).
    Oh. I know what I can do. Here's a picture I've been meaning to post for ages, never one to only post pictures of myself looking glam. It was taken in Hokkaido last February - that's me, with a middle-aged Japanese man trying - I think, he was a bit hard to understand - to teach me traditional-style Japanese dancing: lots of knee-bends, strange head movements and hand waving. For some reason it involved a wet towel, and the music was a variety of karaoke classics sung by our friends. Note the glitter ball! (The second photo is him showing me how it *should* be done).

    I have a stack of nice photos from Hokkaido, I just need to sort through them. Maybe that would be a more constructive use of my time (Of course, I could hoover behind the sofa. Or hit the vodka and valium like a proper 1950s housewife.)

    Monday, May 05, 2003
    this sounds like a fun project. Anyone else going to play?

    Sunday, May 04, 2003
    Anyone who's anyone, it seems, is coming to Tokyo. The Bevieres are coming to live here for a couple of months this summer (the heat! the horror!) and the Watsons (no relation, but Ally was best man at our wedding) are coming for 2 weeks soon with a view to coming on assignment in September. We are just such trend-setters.
    It's a holiday here today too. No plans yet, though I must buy birthday cards for my entire family (oops, there goes my 'must be stuck in the post' excuse), and we both need new glasses, and Cameron said something about a minidisc that will be shopping then. Again. Well, a girl needs a hobby.
    Haven't done much this weekend...C was away on Saturday at some motor race (the photo of fuji below was snapped from a carpark on his way home) so I - guess what?! - shopped. And yesterday we monged about the house before going to see 'bend it like beckham', which has finally been released here. I know everyone else saw it months ago. Juliet Stevenson was brilliant as always, and we came out with big smiles on our faces (apart from me; of course I was snivelling because of the happy ending...pathetic!)

    Sunset over Fuji

    Friday, May 02, 2003
    Today I got up early, full of anticipation for I had been promised some work! Only my work email server is down so I can't get to it, which is really bl**dy annoying, let me tell you. I'd ring the so-called '24-hour helpline' only last time I did that I just annoyed the IT chap by waking him up and he still didn't fix the problem until the next morning because my problems - understandably - are not of sufficient importance to be fixed at midnight. I just hope the work wasn't urgent.
    Some good news! My dad emailed to say that my charm bracelet is safe in my parents' safe (!) - no idea why or when it was put there, but I'm happy to hear it.
    Anyway, Ise was nice. We stayed in a sweet little ryokan; it was a bit like camping as our 6-mat room had no facilities at all and I had to cross a wooden bridge to go to the loo (which you flushed with a kind of hosepipe)! But it was quaint and old-fashioned and we listened to a Japanese water zither* in the central courtyard garden and the okasan gave us packets of her own organic instant soba 'n' soup as we left. Cameron can now beat me at rummy, until now the only game I could win at, so I'll have to think of another (I did suggest that I always won at the 'putting your socks on the right way round' game, but it wan't very satisfactory).
    The shrines were busy - strange (to us) for something you can't actually see properly and certainly can't enter. We saw the wedded rocks, fulfilling a 2-year ambition, but predictably they were not so large and impressive as we'd imagined. Still nice though, and good to be beside the sea. When we went for a coffee, one of the cafe's tables was occupied by a group weighing seaweed into cellophane packets, and they gave us some as a present! We spent an afternoon at the 'edo wonderland', where we saw a ninja show and explored a tricky ninja maze, and failed to follow any of the japanese in a film about the history of...something. It involved a lot of battles and shouting (and every time somebody let off a cannon, the ground shook). Oh, and we visited an aquarium where we saw lovely sea-otters and manatees and porpoises and a dugong (like an aquatic hippo) and, um, fish. We avoided the multitude of pearl shops, pearl museums, pearl-themed activities.
    See? They look quite big...
    rocks and a shag (or a cormorant)
    ...until you realise that that's a cormorant (or a shag) sitting on the torii at the top
    *very odd. water was poured into a channel; it dripped off the end into an underground pot,making a jangly sound which you listened to through a bamboo tube.