Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Is there another country in the world that requires you to register, not just the birth of a child, but the fact that you are expecting one? Or is it, as I suspect, only Japan that would think of such a thing?
So, having had a very pleasant lunch today full of boring baby talk (me asking stupid questions, I know nothing!) with Karen (+ 11-month-old) and Eline (+ 3-month-old), I went to my local ward office (like the local council at home, I suppose). They have a large and very confusing office but fortunately I spotted a woman sitting in a glass box as I entered - not like that chap at Tower Bridge, she was an interpreter. How useful! So I went and asked her where I should go, only she assumed, being foreign, I must want to register as a resident (some interpreter, don't they have to listen?!) before eventually being made to understand and sending me to the 4th floor. Only I decided she must have really meant the 3rd floor so ended up at the wrong department altogether - fortunately the foreign residents' section is on the 3rd floor so a very kind man eventually took pity on me (I was doing my no Japanese at all routine, because it's better than the other option, where they decide you are fluent), walked me to the correct desk, and explained she's up the duff! to the lady there.
Anyway, the long and the short of it is I filled out some forms (I did quite well actually, only getting into a little trouble for putting 2003 instead of the Japanese year (15)) and am now the proud owner of the following:
  • One (1) maternal and child health handbook detailing exactly what to do and when up until the child is five (5) years of age.
  • One (1) immunisation booklet for children: how vaccinations work, what to consider beforehand, etc, with pull-out schedule for said vaccinations.
  • One (1) invitation to classes for expectant mothers: life before and after delivery, child care and clothing, dental hygiene, diet for expectant mothers, enjoyable child rearing and baby bathing, over three (3) afternoons next month.
  • One (1) postcard to record the birth, with English attachment to explain what the postcard is and how to fill it in.
  • One (1) list of 'approved' hospitals in the Shibuya area (Japanese).
  • One (1) voucher for screening for congenital disorders, for when the baby is 5-7 days old, plus English explanation.
  • One (1) flowchart of maternal and child health services.
  • Three (3) vouchers for free antenatal checkups, to be taken at approved hospitals (see above).
  • One (1) flyer detailing how often I should have a checkup and what should be checked.
  • Six (6) leaflets in Japanese, I know not what they are.
  • Two (2) booklets in Japanese, cute pictures of cartoon babies, ditto.

  • Monday, September 29, 2003
    Nagakari-san, one of Cameron's colleagues, went on a business trip to Chester and Copenhagen recently. He's made a photo-log of his journey here. I am not entirely sure about the caption to number 37; and did you know that Chester's east gate clock (see number 27) is the second most photographed clock in the UK? I have no idea how they know, but good to see Nagakari-san continuing the tradition.

    Saturday, September 27, 2003
    It was just another manic friday
    which is why I'm here on a Saturday instead. Let's see, what did I do? Left the house around 9, having drawn maps and things for Max and Phil - went to the writers' group. I didn't actually write a thing but spent a pleasant couple of hours watching the others write and eating toast and daydreaming, before dashing off to Ebisu to meet a couple of friends for lunch and the whale rider. The beginning and end of the film were pretty good though I fell asleep through the middle - well, it was dark and warm in the cinema! Alison thought the film too predictable and she's probably right - and she did at least see it all! - but it seemed like a nice little story to me.
    Dashed off home as soon as that finished for a 30-minute turnaround (there is one enormous advantage to only having one skirt in the wardrobe you can fit into: no dithering over what to wear!) before heading to Odaiba to collect Cameron from work and look at the view back over Tokyo, and have dinner at TY Harbor, it being Max and Phil's last night in Japan. Dinner was followed by a brief stint at Castillos in Roppongi, only the DJ was in a disco mood and didn't play the boys' requests for rock and roll (he did, however, play Toni Basil as I asked him - proof of Cameron's theory that girls get requests played easily). There were two slightly scarey men there doing very literal synchronised dance routines to Rick Astley and the Pet Shop Boys (sometimes you're better off dead there's a gun in your hand and it's pointing at your head involved gun-type hand movements, pointing at the head at the appropriate point.) There was no sign of the promised beautiful Japanese girls flinging themselves at the boys either - it was perhaps a little early still - so we left.
    Next, my latest pregnancy hurdle: sober karaoke. It was actually just as much fun as the non-sober variety, only I really could have done with having another girl along. The standards just didn't get performed (no Abba, no Nolans, no Gloria Gaynor). Actually there were lots of songs done that I've never seen karaoked before (flash! a-ah!), which was great! You do tend to sing the same old songs when you go with the same people. Much beatles, unsurprisingly. And Max bravely soldiered through stairway to heaven, allowing the rest of us time to get new drinks, go to the loo, have a nap, a stroll around the block.
    In bed around 3. Yawn. Even worse, up at 5 to leave Japan! I crawled from my bed, vomited profusely (sorry), and retired again. It's now nearly 3 in the afternoon and I am starting to feel like it might be lunchtime. Cameron has gone to play football and Jura has caught, consumed and puked back up a small bird. I am going to do nothing for the day.

    Thursday, September 25, 2003
    Tokyo is such a small place. Yesterday, at the pregnancy group, I spoke to two girls in particular. One of them turned out to be the wife of the boss of somebody we know (Cameron plays football with him). The other, I bumped into in Shibuya today. Then at my Taiko drumming class, I met somebody I haven't seen since we were on the same trip to Hokkaido last February (and the first thing she said to me was congratulations so it seems news travels fast!). OK, you might say they are all expats. Only there are about 250,000 foreigners living in Tokyo (1.7 million in Japan) so I don't really expect to keep seeing people I know.
    Taiko was fun: apparently we are doing a public performance in November. Nothing like putting on the pressure to make me forget when to bang and when to shout hup!
    And Yolly, my maid, has just enquired after the baby, rubbed my tummy, told me I'm still sexy (?) and informed me that women who stay beautiful and take care of their skin have girls, whereas those who either lose their looks or don't take care of themselves (I wasn't sure which) have boys. She then told me she thinks I'll have a boy. What a charmer!

    Wednesday, September 24, 2003
    Family blogs
    Chris, my brother-in-law, has a new blog, generation X plus one. I'm not sure yet whether it's a blog blog or a baby blog (in which case I should link it from my other one too), but do go and visit.

    I've got a brand new waste disposal unit (but it hasn't got a key)
    It goes whirrr instead of clank clank bang! like the old one did. Mind you, I haven't challenged it with anything yet.

    When models in fashion magazines wear pink eyeshadow, they look edgy and modern. If real women do it they look like they haven't slept for a week (or have been crying for 4 hours). This is yet another item on my long list of 'reasons why I'm not a model' (others including being 6 inches too short and 2 stone too heavy, not to mention the whole bone structure/skin condition/temperament thing.) Apart from Japanese women, who look quite good in pink but absolutely awful in green. It's a funny old world.

    It seems the equinox was spot on this year: today is grey and delightfully cool with a delicious smell of Autumn. I took myself along to a meeting of the tokyo pregnancy group this morning. It felt a bit like joining the brownies - slightly scarey and full of girls who know each other. Unlike the brownies, they were all pregnant (OK I should have expected that I suppose) - all those bellies! - but thankfully also unlike the brownies we didn't have to sing, skip, or prove we had a clean hanky.
    I did my usual crap-with-new-people routine, hanging out at the back, but give me a couple of meetings and it will be quite fun I think. It will be good for me to get to know some other people anyway. I was the least pregnant there - one girl is due tomorrow! A woman talked about nappies, somebody else talked about baby slings, and three new mums brought their tiny babies in and talked about childbirth (nice.) I was amazed how well they all looked actually - fresh faced and not too knackered at all. I would have liked to look at the other new mums who didn't make it...
    I don't feel any urge to coo over other people's babies still. One girl there was picking them up and cuddling them and that does absolutely nothing for me. (Actually, that's not strictly true. I'd happily have held the tiny new babies, it's the bigger ones with drool and rashes and independent movement I'm not so keen on.)

    Tuesday, September 23, 2003
    Autumn equinox
    I misjudged yoga, for starters - thought it would be quiet, maybe two or three people, but instead it was packed to the rafters with lots of husbands in attendance on their day off. I think in honour of the men (probably so they won't think their wives are wimps!) we worked twice as hard as usual so I am expecting to hurt tomorrow. Came home to find that Cameron had gone to the gym, then it was such a glorious day - sunny, warm, no humidity - we went for a walk in Shinjuku-gyoen, a local park. Well, us and the rest of Tokyo! I've never seen it so packed (think Virginia Water lake on a summer Sunday, people from home.) We walked all the way round, through the fieldy bit, the japanesey bit, up to the frenchy bit, past the englishy bit and round the glasshouse too. At the far end (the french garden), where it was quiet, we saw an elderly man sitting on the grass. As we walked past he stood up then turned somersaults down the slope! Hands-feet-hands-feet-hands-feet all the way to the bottom, then took a bow when Cameron applauded.

    Sign in the window of a men's clothes shop, Hiroo:

    (Can you read it? It says: Have you ever been high? Have you ever been stoned? Have you sat on the long couch with a tingling in your feet, in your toes, and known what was coming? Have you been messy, sloppy, calm, dropped pill, dropped downers? Have you had your little break today? Have you never wanted to come down? Have you been happy with your choice? To sell trousers.)

    Monday, September 22, 2003
    PS Kavitha has moved journeywoman so update any links.

    Rainy days and Mondays
    Do they get you down? Not me; well, not unless they go on and on unbroken for weeks (see rainy season). Rainy days that is, not Mondays - you only ever get one of them at a time.
    We had a very pleasant wet weekend, apart from the bit where I got completely lost trying to find my way home from the swimming pool and nearly drowned on the street. (I was caught once again - you'd think I'd learn - by the Japanese tendancy to draw maps in the most aesthetically pleasing orientation rather than putting north at the top.) There is something nice about sitting and reading and listening to music while it pours outside, and it inspired me at last to start organising the un-albumed photos on Saturday. Saturday night we had dinner out with some friends before retiring back to their rather fancy 11th-floor flat above the Gucci shop (I am sure they'll see Fuji from it in the winter) for premiership footy and chat. Sunday, when I eventually made it home, I came over all domesticated and baked bread while the rain continued to pour.
    Today it has stopped raining but it's cold. A good thing tomorrow is the Autumn equinox, the day when people all over Japan pack away their summery clothes and dig out the winter woolies (and get a day off work to do so!). It's forecast to be back in the mid-20s again by Wednesday but that won't stop them sporting gloves and hats and thick cardies.
    Dogs have already started dressing for the cold: dachshunds are wearing this season's T-shirts and we saw a labrador out for a walk on Saturday in cagoule and wellies.
    My overly enthusiastic editing on Friday sees me with no work today, so I've been and spent a fortune at the international supermarket (sausages; chocolate; crisps; flour) and now I have to stay in to wait for it to arrive. And ring the housing agent about the non-reappearance of the waste-disposal man and the fact that in the meantime I have broken the dishwasher. It's all go.

    Sunday, September 21, 2003
    natural phenomena
    Thanks for your concern: yes, there was a biggish earthquake yesterday but no, I didn't notice. We were in the gym - Cameron thinks he felt a bit of a shake but I was oblivious. Our gym is right under the railway track so I probably thought it was a train. Apparently it was quite wobbly for a minute though. (I love the CNN article, above - a beautiful picture of Tokyo, with the caption "particularly vulnerable to earthquakes".)
    And the typhoon has just in the last few minutes been reported to have veered off-course so it should skirt the coastline instead of hitting us tomorrow. It has rained all weekend, but the wind hasn't yet arrived. I am quite enjoying the novelty (which will grow old quite quickly) of being able to go outside without sweating and feeling drained, and I even have a lovely pair of socks on. I hope Phil and Max are coping though: sightseeing in a downpour is not too much fun.

    Friday, September 19, 2003
    Terrifying. Though you have to admire the little girl who proved that her uncle is not a monkey.
    (Link half-inched from pure land mountain)
    Apparently it might be a hoax - but I want to believe it!

    Why is my fridge full of snickers bars? I didn't buy them. I imagine Cameron didn't buy them because he'd have eaten them immediately, not refrigerated them. I therefore conclude that Max and Phil purchased said confectionary, only now they have gone away until next Thursday. Is it a test? They must already know the answer: there is no chance that the bars will still be there on their return.
    I note the cereal cupboard has three new boxes of Alpen too. Perhaps they are playing mind games.
    Phil has a family competition to win: he has to produce the most exotic foodstuff at Christmas. Any suggestions? We are pushing for whale bacon, but are not sure how he'll get it home and store it until December. Umeboshi, salted plums, are another suggestion - or I recommended dried-fish-n-cheese snacks, only they were rejected as being far too tasty.
    Apparently one of his friends back home suggested couscous.

    you'll have to be quick
    because it will disappear, but do, do go and listen to The Proclaimers singing in an american accent on the Today programme yesterday. Here - the link is halfway down on the right. If I can work out how to put a sound file up, I might be able to have it here for posterity.
    I bought one of the old Proclaimers albums just this week! It was on sale and I've been looking out for them for a while. I also bought the S Club 7 greatest hits album (because there ain't no party like an S Club party), which I've been watching for ever since they split. Great travelling music and kitchen music, respectively.
    Update Here is the Today programme excerpt. I hope this is legal.

    Thursday, September 18, 2003
    Why don't Cadbury's make a whole fruit? It could have, I don't know, dried apricots as well as the raisins and would be yum. I hate having to suck the chocolate off the nuts and spit them out when eating fruit n nut, and they make whole nut don't they? They should know I need all the help I can get to reach five portions a day.

    a whingy whine
    So if I'm feeling absolutely knackered and a bit rubbish generally, which blog do I put it on? This one I think because it could as easily be the heat as anything else. That is my news for today: I feel knackered and rubbish. I dragged myself along to the writers' group, where I watched them all scribbling away as I ate cheese sandwiches and doodled but didn't write anything myself. Then to Shibuya to meet Alison before Taiko, only I was sick in the loos in tower records, which was obviously a delight, so I bypassed Taiko, we had a quick drink, then I came home to try to work. The servers are all dead back home so that was a write-off, so I've surfed and mailed and tried to look busy because my maid's here. But all I really want to do is lie on the sofa and maybe flick through Vogue.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2003
    It's been ages since I posted any pictures so here's a quick taste of our holiday:
    singapore slings (and a mango juice for me) in Rafflesmisty boats in Pittenweem harbourSt Peter's basilica, RomeHanoi's red river

    Tuesday, September 16, 2003
    Forgot to say...(sorry, rather a lot of posts today). When we walked into the wedding 'second party' we got a round of applause! Presumably for managing to get pregnant. Which was nice, if strange.

    I dreamt about an old friend last night. Not only is it a good three years since I last saw her, we have only spoken on the telephone maybe twice in that time and last exchanged email over a year ago. In my dream, we just bumped into each other and were slightly embarrassed not to have made more effort to stay in touch, but it was fine. I dragged myself out of bed, logged on, and found an email from her right at the top of my inbox!

    Look at this. Wouldn't it be nice to feel your chosen career wasn't a complete waste of time?!

    Yesterday was a bank holiday here - respect for old people day. Which is the reason I stayed quiet when an old man bodily barged me out of the way to reach the only empty seat on the train. It can't be good for your karma, these busy trains; you start out with mild envy of the lucky people who have found a seat but then, as stop after stop goes by and they show no sign of moving, it changes to dislike and, after only about 15 minutes, you feel real passionate loathing for them. I was on my way to a wedding 'second party' yesterday evening so my hatred was compounded by my high-heeled foot pain.
    Cameron spent the day at the wedding. I'm hoping he might post about it as it sounds very interesting and I'd hate to spoil it by getting the anecdotes wrong. If he's shown no interest by later in the week, I'll do my best. He's home from work today, seems to have caught some sort of chill (oddly) by wearing his full highland regalia to the wedding. It was well into the 30s here yesterday so I imagine those layers of wool might have been a bit uncomfortable. It was hilarious coming home on the train; Cameron was standing up and the old lady sitting opposite me kept craning her neck to look at him before giggling behind her hand and nudging her husband. A man in a skirt!
    I spent yesterday doing my tourguide routine. Max and Phil, two of Cameron's university chums, are here so we went to Shinjuku, Asakusa, Akihabara, then I left them to visit the imperial palace and Ginza and find their way home. Today I went to yoga so they've gone out and about unguided - but they got home OK last night so they'll be just fine.
    Our weekend was fairly uneventful. The party friday night was fun; the restaurant was Hawaiian so every hour we were entertained by smiley Japanese girls dancing in grass skirts and coconut bras. The English language requires a new word: every day in Japan, something surprising happens. But because it's Japan, it's not surprising in the least. Is there a word for that concept; unsurprisingly surprising?
    Cameron was hungover on Saturday (there are some small advantages to not drinking!) so we monged about and watched the man who wasn't there in the evening, which was excellent I thought, if weird, though I note the reviews are pretty luke-warm. And Sunday M&P arrived so we went for sushi and to look at the harajuku freaks before a yakitori dinner.

    Monday, September 15, 2003
    Major earthquake predicted for Tokyo
    If I suddenly go quiet, you'll know what's happened...
    I'm off to cower under the stairs with a hard hat for the next two days.

    Friday, September 12, 2003
    An entertaining new blog here: speaking as a parent. (Link nicked from uborka. I wonder what uborka means?)

    Yesterday was manic, work has really picked up since I got back. I know I complained about having nothing to do but some sort of halfway level would be just right. I also fitted in a taiko drumming lesson, which was lots of fun so I'm going to go weekly. I am certainly not a natural though: I can bang the drum or shout or stamp my feet or bend my knees, but not all at once! In the evening we went to the Hyotan, just for a couple of hours, with some of Cameron's colleagues. To my surprise, soft drinks are available there - I had no idea. They were so sweet! Ordering food that is good for a baby (it seems the Japanese pregnancy diet is considerably different from a western one: beef tongue, spinach, sashimi and an eel-n-egg (anago-n-tamago) stew!) and toning down the conversation to 'educational' topics. I did explain that it can't hear yet but apparently it will pick up the vibrations.
    Today - more work. But it is so hot outside I am not that sorry to be in my nice air-conditioned house. Kavitha is coming for lunch, to eat the food I bought for dinner last night before being invited out. And this evening we are going to a surprise birthday party, which will be a surprise since I've never met the birthday boy.

    Thursday, September 11, 2003
    Some days you'll blog
    Some days you won't
    Some days allow a lot of blogging and
    Some days don't

    Wednesday, September 10, 2003
    Hey, have I told you this before? I can't remember. When we first arrived in Japan, a few people we met asked what blood type we were (and were quite surprised when Cameron said he couldn't remember). We eventually discovered that it's because they believe it reveals some personality traits - see here or here. I just remembered last week as I had to hunt out my blood-donor card to show the doctor that I'm an A+ (thus saving the 2000 yen test). Group A makes me conventional and considerate (OK so far) - but apparently means I can turn into a nasty piece of work! Cameron's O type makes him highly motivated and sporty...and boring.

    My Wednesday has been filled with men
    No, not like that, silly! The waste-disposal man (who feels quite like an old friend, he visits so often) has just introduced himself to the refrigerator man (he's new) and asked him to get his bits out of the sink. I managed to explain to fridge man it's a little not cold but waste-disposal man is just finding out for himself that, this time, it's not actually broken, just making a horrible noise. I am so embarrassed; are they supposed to go wrong every two months?
    How has your Wednesday been?
    Update Actually, the waste disposal is dame desu (knackered) this time! So the times when it stopped working it wasn't broken and this time, when it still goes round but makes a racket, it's broken and he is ordering me a new one. And the fridge man is blow-drying the compressor thingy at trhe back of the freezer section so I feel embarrassed again (it never crossed my mind to defrost the thing!)

    God! They're all barking!
    Sorry, I've just been reading some pregnancy messageboards and the world is full of crazy women. Or perhaps they are all sane and I'm crazy. There are lots and lots of women out there who have been collecting baby clothes ever since they were married 'just in case'. One woman, for six years. (She now says she has too much!) Another bought the first babygro when she was on her honeymoon! And others have been out buying stuff from the very moment that line turned blue. It's not like a baby is suddenly going to arrive with no warning, is it - not like keeping teabags in the cupboard in case somebody pops in unexpectedly. I was thinking that around 7 months would be early enough to shop. Call me superstitious but I don't want to jinx things.
    Has everybody else out there got a little drawer full of baby clothes that they've had for years?

    Tuesday, September 09, 2003
    Comments now available over there. Ask and it shall be given. And I've cunningly used a different system, so if one's down you should still be able to speak to me from the other place! Cool, eh?

    Back to yoga today after the long summer break. I was delighted to find that I hadn't regressed as much as I'd feared: what little bendiness I had gained was gone of course (I'm just not a bendy person) but I hadn't lost much strength. I can still chatturunga. They've got a super new studio, it's all light and airy (the last one was underground) with working airconditioning, little cubbyholes for shoes and bags, and a proper changing room. And, most importantly, SPACE! You were always a bit concerned at the old place that you were about to kick somebody in the teeth and at times we did have to rest our legs on our neighbours. No more! I think the floor is harder though, my knees feel quite sore.

    Monday, September 08, 2003
    We went to this exhibition on Saturday. It was very good, but quite disappointing in that they clearly only used Alexander's name in the title (and his statue on the website) in a kind of British-government sex-up-the-content manner. The trick had worked as it was very busy, but Alexander just got a couple of busts and the odd map. It was still interesting but not in the least what we had expected.
    Each exhibit was carefully labelled in English as well as Japanese, so we knew where the old statues (mostly) had been found, what they were of, and how old they were. Only they had failed to translate the explanatory posters so all the exhibits were kind of in a void to us, the connections weren't clear. We think, after racking our brains to remember the kanji we knew before the summer and looking carefully at the pictures, the exhibition was tracing the passage of artistic influences from Rome/Greece through Persia and India to Japan and China. Specifically (I think) religious art - one poster quite clearly showed (I think) how Hercules turned into the guardian deities you see at the gateway to Japanese temples. And another showed some Roman goddess with a cornucopia going through various incarnations to end up as a Japanese painting of a woman (goddess?) and baby.
    And today I made a box out of washi paper. It's all go!

    Reading Adrian's account of his big summer jaunt to Canada has reminded me of one of the high points of our trip. At Bangkok airport, we got a ride on one of those airport buggies (you know, you see them zipping around carrying stewardesses and old people). Whee!

    I'd forgotten how small Japanese dogs and old ladies can be.

    Friday, September 05, 2003
    beautiful people
    My holiday must have done me some good: in the hairdressers getting my hair washed, I had the usual head-n-neck massage (luxury). And for the first time since I moved to Japan she didn't go ooh, tense when she got to my neck!
    I thoroughly enjoyed my haircut. Eavesdropping on all the other clients. A very loud American round the back of the mirror from me had obviously arrived fairly recently ("how come they all speak such good english?"). My hairdresser and I giggled to each other when she proclaimed there just aren't any beautiful people here like there are at home and agreed she doesn't come from where I come from!

    Baby blog
    Well I don't want to bore those of you who come here for cat stories, stuff about Japan and my whinging, so I've set up another blog here for baby stuff. I wanted desperately to call it baby blue, in keeping with the turquoise theme, but babyblue, baby-blue and baby_blue are all taken by bloggers who either gave up 2 years ago or made one entry then never returned. And they don't have contact details or I'd ask them nicely if I could have the name. How irritating! You'd think blogger might delete them after a while. So, turquoisetoo it is (but it will be baby blue to me). I'm not sure exactly how this will work yet - obviously it's going to be quite a big part of our lives so I won't keep away from it altogether over here. I supose I envisage it being a repository for surplus: details and photos. You know, for grandparents and the like. Probably. We'll just see how it goes. At present it just has more whinging (they say stick with what you know best), from the days when I couldn't whinge to anyone but Cameron because we hadn't told anyone. Poor Cameron was all whinged out!
    And I can't believe I forgot to mention that I'm going to be an aunty! That's right, my little sis is expecting too. If all goes to plan, 3 weeks before me!

    a menagerie
    We have cockroaches in the kitchen and lizards in the living room. The latter courtesy of Islay, who sees herself as Great White (black) Hunter - none of the lizards in our garden have tails any more. We just scoop them up into a mug and put them back outside. She brought me a beautiful big black-and-blue butterfly as a welcome-home present, which was nice; unfortunately she'd chewed off half a wing. It seemed quite lively though and when I put it outside it had disappeared the next time I looked, so presumably no real harm done. She was very proud.
    Cockroaches are just indescribably revolting. And so fast!
    It's just been work work work for me this week so very little to tell. It's our wedding anniversary today so we are going out for a slap-up feed tonight and I'm allowing myself a glass of wine, which is quite exciting!
    Thanks to Fraser and Chris, who very very kindly sent me zipped-up photoeditors; I can get on with making more webpages now. Hooray! I hear you all cry.

    Thursday, September 04, 2003
    I'm feeling very frustrated (and bored, hence all the posts! It's maid-day and my middle-class guilt won't let me sit on the patio while she cleans my house; I have to sit at the computer looking busy even though I finished my work an hour ago). The dead hard-drive has caused more problems than was immediately apparent. The main thing annoying me today is that it took the photo-editing software with it (for some reason it's not included in the new version of Office) Not only can I no longer edit my photos (ie reduce the size so they don't crash people's computers), I used it to make my titles at the top of my pages! They are gif files with a transparent background and I think they are quite nice. And I can't make them any more. Powerpoint lets you make gifs with transparent bits but saves the whole page instead of just the writing, so it's too big. And illustrator won't let you make gifs. (I used to make the file in illustrator, copy/paste it to my photoeditor, make the background transparent and save as a gif. A bit convoluted but it worked.) Does anybody clever know how I can get around this or have I got to re-think my titles?

    Eurgh, I've got a cold. Sniff.
    I was reading something recently (probably an in-flight magazine but they all blur into one after a while) that said that plane air had less bugs than real, town air. Can that be true? So why do I always get a cold after flying? Maybe there are fewer bugs flying about but you just bump into them more as they get recycled, increasing your chances of catching one. Or maybe it's just the dryness of the air makes you susceptible. Or the tiredness. Whatever, I have a cold and I am not very happy; colds are so much more horrible when it's hot weather, it just doesn't seem right.
    We had the most incredible thunderstorm last night. Late afternoon, the heat started building up and the sky got blacker and blacker then bang! It started. It was quite frightening for a little while as we had constant thunder-n-lightning but no rain. Then the rain came - wow! Quite exciting. I was just glad not to be out on a river in a little tin boat this time.

    Things one forgets on going away for a month
    Number One: Never, ever, under any circumstances, take your letters or postcards to the postoffice to post. Go and buy the stamps there by all means but stick them on and put the mail in the box yourself. Why? Because if they can see the items, they'll measure them against their 'standard' piece of green plastic and, if they don't match, will weigh them and make you pay over the odds. (If you just stick a 70 yen stamp on a postcard it gets there, regardless.) I've just spent 1000 yen (about a fiver) sending 8 postcards home, just because they were about 7 mm wider than the green plastic thingy.
    Yes, they are postcards from Vietnam and no, I don't suppose it will teach me. I had actually taken my address book after all, I discovered on unpacking my case! But too late.
    Those of you receiving postcards: think yourselves lucky.

    Wednesday, September 03, 2003
    It's just so civilised here! Walking down the road this morning there was a lovely man positioned at the end of the road, a good 50 metres from the hole they were digging, to bow and wave his stick and help me find my way around the cones. And then a van driver stopped and waved me across the road even though there was nothing behind him for ages and I could easily have nipped across after he'd passed. And a boy gave up his seat on the subway for an old lady.
    Haven't done too much - trip to the doctor this morning, then to the supermarket (am currently waiting for my groceries), then the bookshop then home to start work again.
    What's that? Oh, the doctor. No, nothing wrong. Just a standard checkup, weight and blood pressure, you know the sort of thing. They like to see you every month when you're pregnant.
    Oh, hadn't I mentioned it? Silly old me. Yes, that's the reason this blog was kind of quiet before we went away: it's hard to think of things to type when your mind is just going 'pregnant pregnant. Baby. Pregnant.' at you!
    I blame Lisa, myself. Though nobody could say she didn't give fair warning. Or maybe Zoe was right and it was those dodgy foreign keyboards?
    Anyway, there we are. That's my news.

    Tuesday, September 02, 2003
    It's nice to be back
    Despite the pile of laundry engulfing the kitchen at present. The cats are clearly delighted to see us - following us about. I was less delighted to be woken by Islay around 5 am; I'm sure she was just being affectionate but I'm just not a morning person and I'd forgotten she does that! I have loads to tell you and loads of photos but it's going to take a little while to sort it all out - I don't yet have any photo-editing software since my hard drive died.
    How lovely to choose clothes that haven't been packed 6 times in a case! Today I chose tracky bottoms and a T-shirt so it's not that I've been missing the glam stuff; you just get a bit bored of seeing the same old things.
    I'm not sure I'm really ready for Japan yet so I'm hiding out in the house. Email, blogs, laundry. I think I will have to brave the supermarket later but it's important to ease yourself back in slowly. That said it was so nice to hop on a bus and then in a taxi from the airport without fearing for my life (the one thing Rome and Hanoi have in common is the fear for life and limb whenever you have to cross a road) - and the taxidriver just tooted his horn once, politely, to point out a change of traffic light. It was so quiet!
    Cameron's 'best thing' from the holiday was the Palatine Hill and thereabouts in Rome. Predictably, I have several 'best things': the Singapore night safari, the sistine chapel, the perfume pagoda trip in Hanoi, the vietnamese water puppets. I never have managed to choose one favourite anything.