Monday, December 29, 2003
First snow!
Spotted, not here exactly but not so far - on the way to the midwife clinic on Saturday. Less than an inch, but definitely white. And it is very cold here now, though, like last year, there is no frost due to there being no moisture whatsoever. I bought Cameron a hygrometer for Christmas which has been consistently off the bottom of the scale at 30% humidity; the cats and my hair crackle when brushed. (But it's beautiful! Crisp blue skies! Much nicer than the Tokyo summer.)
Sorry to those of you I scared, I should have included a geological hammer in the snake picture, for scale. It was only about a foot long.
Sunday we walked through the park (so crisp! so blue!) to Harajuku where we - well, ok, I - stuffed our (my) faces with sushi, it having been weeks since we did so. Back home intending to go to the gym...Cameron made it while I snoozed all that carbohydrate off on the sofa.
Back to work today but only for one day as we have the rest of the week off, so it doesn't feel too onerous. Actually I'm only doing half a day at that, having gone to meet a new person for morning coffee and ended up getting home from my new friend's house at 3! Hoorah!

Friday, December 26, 2003
Christmas in Japan at Lost in Transit.

Some holiday snaps
(Hover over them to see what they are; click for a bigger picture).
us on an elephantAng Thong national parkI was snorkelling just feet from this seasnake, which Cameron now tells me is highly poisonous!Some cute kids who accosted us on the beach. We had no idea what they were saying but they sang us a song so we gave them some money...

Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Hi honey I'm home!
Had a lovely relaxing time - each day a nice man from a nearby restaurant came and brought us breakfast, then we vegged about the house (about 3 m from the sea!) reading and sunbathing all morning. Afternoons we went out and about: some very strenuous activities including snorkelling, swimming in the sea, shopping (I was very, tragically, excited by the presence of a Tesco hypermarket on the island. Why do they get one when Tokyo only has silly small shops? I note here that shopping in silly small shops (bakers, grocers, etc) is one of the things I claim to like about living here; I never claimed to be consistent). We visited a waterfall, had a ride on an elephant, saw butterflies, tigers, parrots, otters, fish and snakes (in zoos and aquaria not wild!) and had a day-trip to Ang Thong National Park (where the beach was set) where we saw wild monkeys. Unfortunately that was the day a big storm hit but otherwise the weather was perfect, mid-to-high 20s and mostly sunny. Evenings we stuffed our faces in a succession of nice restaurants (prawns as big as your head!) and mostly played rummy.
I realised I was back in Japan yesterday when I spotted a poster on the back of a toilet door: How To Wash Your Buttocks. (It turned out to be instructions for using the fancy bidet function on the loo, but still.)
Today has been a prepare-for-Christmas day: mincepies made, bread made, pressies wrapped. Still to get the decs up but it's on the list.

Sunday, December 14, 2003
Off on our hols
Back 23rd. Have a good week!

Saturday, December 13, 2003
Looking down on creation
Well today my little cup of joy is just runneth-ing over. I am so easily pleased, all it takes is some blue skies, preferably set off by straw-coloured trees and scarlet bushes, and some piles of crispy golden gingko leaves to kick through, and that's me!
This morning we went to the midwife clinic for a checkup. Apparently I have a good tummy, the best sort (?). Which is nice, though apparently it means I'll have a good labour, with strong pains (she was very clear that strong pains are a good thing and that I was going to have them). And she massaged it for me with lovely aromatherapy oils, then made Cameron do the same and told him he should do it every night and talk to the baby at the same time (my doctor never does all this! Much as I like him, he's strictly a weight-blood pressure-everything OK kind of guy.) Next to my feet - one each. Fabulous. I have never really thought much about reflexology before but she was quite amazing - fancy being able to tell from my foot that I have a hard head (eh? we wondered - turns out she means I've been working hard lately!) and a stiff neck (always). And that I don't have constipation (oh sorry, should this post have a warning?) but the circulation to my womb is good. In fact, she exclaimed you are very healthy! - I'm really going to miss all this once the baby is born.
While I was drifting and having my feet massaged, somebody crept in and left a sleeping 2-day-old baby in the room on a cushion. Odd.
We then had an hour or two to kill before Cameron had to go and play football, so we mooched about Shinjuku looking at gadgets and drinking coffee. I spotted a shop with ponchos so I went back after he'd left, hoorah! She said they were new in - I knew they'd appear here eventually (they were in September's Vogue after all). I got a lovely soft bright blue one and was very tempted by a grey knitted one (from Nepal!) for those not-so-bright days - it had a hood - so I might have to go back for that.
Nipped to Harajuku to get a Thai guidebook from the library, then walked home through the park. Hence all the rejoicing in the sun and trees and feeling lucky lucky lucky to be here. The nice lady in the greengrocers gave me a raffle ticket too though I have no idea why.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Left: an ashtray spotted for sale. We ♥ smoking. This ashtray is for all (something) tobacco. Please enjoy smoking and keep happy. Right: a new shop in town.

On the other hand
Counting my blessings, of which there are three.
(Before Tamako tells me off: yes I know there are lots more, but I'm not about to start getting all soppy about friends and family here, it's not that sort of blog. And yes, I have my health and all my own teeth. And a very privileged lifestyle. And...anyway. Three.)
1. I'm going to Koh Samui in 3 days and their rainy season looks to be ending tomorrow!
2. I've been approached by a new person with some work! (Only this is a Mixed Blessing given that she wants to know my rates and I never know what to say. I don't want to be too cheap but I do want to be reasonable.)
3. Being a student during the grunge phase is finally paying off! I have a shelf full of enormous misshapen jumpers, which are just perfect now I can't fit into my winter coats.

Thursday, December 11, 2003
Guess what? A whinge!
Meh. I had one of those nights where you doze, never really getting to sleep because your jaw-grinding wakes you, your mind plays the same tasks over and over and then when morning finally comes your head is pounding. Is stress bad for the baby? I have been working on a particularly nasty supplement this week: the client is re-writing it as I edit, which can't be the best way. Yesterday was booked as a day off - I had lots of little pre-holiday tasks to complete and people I'd arranged to see (coffee with a friend, taiko in a proper hall so we could play un-muffled!, haircut, major trip to the post office with Christmas parcels, return library books, etc) but coming home from that and starting work at 5 pm was not really very enjoyable (grind grind grind). Still, this time next week I'll be on a long white beach and won't care.
The post office was fun, she looked at me like I was a loony as I piled parcels onto the counter. I could have done without the elderly lady outside who tutted at me when all my christmas cards fell from under my arm with a big clatter into the gutter. It isn't as easy as it once was to get down and pick them up, given this past week's growth spurt, either. I nearly cried (but was a big brave girl and settled for a good grind). In order to send parcels you have to list their content, which of course I had forgotten. And there's only room for four things anyway, while some of my parcels contained seven or eight. With hindsight, I wonder if 'christmas presents' would suffice?
The library was closed, a shame as I had an hour to kill and said nasty supplement in my bag. A lady outside showed me that I could post my books into the big bin things outside. Only she seems to be posting magazines not books, so I do hope I haven't sent them off for recycling! I spent the hour mooching Omotesando in the rain. I note that the new swanky big white and bright Dior shop is now open. A fabulous frock in the window was not sufficient to entice me to join the queue along the pavement (carefully contained by two men with placards).
I have just remembered I haven't cancelled the milk for next week. I did ask Cameron to ask a colleague to write a note but his unhelpful reply was that it is easy and that I can do it; my response of course was that in that case he had better do it and the upshot is that neither of us has done it and the note should have gone out today!
This morning I am working once again but dashing off mid-morning because a friend has kindly offered to take me to Akachan-honpo, a baby shop. Now, what do I need to buy? It needs something to wear, something to sleep in and something to carry it in. That's all, right?

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Another day, another prenatal class. Like last week's, this was run by the ward office who provided a translator - unfortunately the same one as last week. This week she was either so engrossed in the subject or so worried about her daughter (at home with a high fever) that she quite forgot to translate until prompted ("what is she talking about now?" seemed to work but only for about 2 minutes). Still, it was fun.
First was dental hygiene. It was kind of like a primary-school science lesson: we used plastic pipettes to put some saliva on a blue tablet thing which we than wrapped in plastic and stuck to our arms (to incubate at body temperature I presume). Ours all stayed blue which means we have no RD. What's RD? Not a clue. Some sort of mutant bug, we think. It's good not to have it. Then we all licked some litmus paper to check the acidity of our saliva (it gets more acid when pregnant so we must all chew gum. I think.) And lastly we licked a white paper strip to see if our gums were bleeding (no! not to see if it went red which meant that they were, it was far more high-tech than that. A little square on the back stayed yellow if there was no blood and changed colour if there was. All of ours stayed yellow so I, being a scientist, wanted to get another one and test it after biting my cheek, but I wasn't allowed. I think they were a dud batch.)
What else? Oh we've come home with toothbrushes and floss and all sorts, as well as a disclosing tablet. I was rather hoping we might chew that in class too but no luck there. Interesting cultural differences with the two indian girls, who have never heard of dental floss (and also won't eat bananas or pineapple when pregnant because apparently it cools the body too much - but that came later).
Part two was nutrition. They gave us food! The swiftest way to a pregnant woman's heart, for sure. Carrot-and-bacon salad and seaweed with flaked fish followed by tinned fruit. Then they wheeled out the trays of plastic food (our interpreter had all but entirely given up by this point - they made the mistake of giving her food too - so I had to interpret for myself. I could have ended up believing anything. Luckily a nice American girl had good Japanese and steered me right.) One set of trays was all the food you should eat in a day, which looked rather a lot but perhaps I should try piling everything up, it might surprise me. No chocolate biscuits or cakes! I liked the teacher actually because she was very sensible with her 'everything in moderation' views only she does want us to drink a lot of milk, very keen on calcium. Not cheese because it's salty. Instead of salting veg to cook you can use sugar (this sounded so strange we checked it witht he interpreter!). Miso soup is too salty so you can make it with half yogurt (yuk!). The other tray contained plastic foods that contain calcium in case you can't drink milk. Much tofu.
And on that note I am still working and we haven't a thing for tea. Cameron was going to nip to the supermarket and bring sushi but he's stuck in traffic. Why oh why (etc) is there no M&S here from which I could fill my freezer with ready meals for such emergencies?

And they all seem so quiet! (This is Cameron's home town.)

Monday, December 08, 2003
pa rum pa pum pum
Christmas shopping is extra hard in a country that supposedly doesn't celebrate. I've never gone in for 'gift packs' of deodorant, soap and a flannel but somehow they get you into the right frame of mind. All you get here is sparkly lights (nice) and the drummer boy (pa rum pa pum pum). Add to that the fact that whatever we buy has to be postable - not too heavy, non-breakable - and it all becomes quite difficult! Still, I'm nearly there after work's computer system broke yet again - one more paranoid than myself might think they were trying to prevent me from working but I just think it's a bit rubbish.
Anyway, I walked all the way to Shibuya in the interests of keeping fit and because it was a beeeautiful sunny-but-cold day (pa rum pa pum pum). I then did several circuits of the shops getting more and more despondant before fortifying myself with coffee and cake and a stiff talking-to (note: I don't know if Starbucks is doing the same seasonal stuff in other countries but if it is the cranberry bliss bar is quite delicious; the peppermint mocha a bit weird and the apple cider yummy). This pulled me together and focused my mind and I'm now almost completely done (me and my drum). Of course, it's all load of old tat but hey! That's Christmas!
I then walked to Omotesando and am very pleased I did as I found a lovely scarf and mitten set for myself in Benetton that somebody can give me. That's my sort of shopping.
Oh and in other news I astounded myself several times when I caught a glimpse in a mirror or shop window. I have quite a bump! Of the sort that makes people predict I'm having a girl (high and pointy) - my sister's is apparently more spread out so it will be interesting to see if hers is a boy (which is what our granny and Katy have said from the start). Personally I suspect these predictions to be rubbish approximately 50% of the time.

Saturday, December 06, 2003
A lovely lovely lady gave me her seat on the train yesterday! Unfortunately I was getting off at the next stop (and was so taken aback I didn't manage to tell her) - and also unfortunately I'd had to stand for three stops while she finished her conversation, but still. How nice. Rather oddly though she got off at the next station and hopped back on one door further down the carriage. Maybe she couldn't bear the thought of watching me occupy her seat?

Friday, December 05, 2003
And yesterday was all about shopping. In the morning I went on a TGA trip - TGA is the relocation company that looked after us when we arrived; they run trips to places of interest every now and again. It was a part of Tokyo I hadn't visited before (Ningyocho) and advertised as a Christmas shopping trip, so off I went. Of course I failed completely to buy presents but I did buy some lovely things for myself! First to a crafty shop, then to visit an artisan (the guide whispered 'he's not very social') who makes the boxes geisha use to store their kimonos. They start as wicker baskets but, after 6 months of building up the lacquer layers, are absolutely beautiful. I considered ordering one - a small 'treasure' one rather than a full kimono one - but before I can do so, have to pick a family crest to have on the side! I might go back, it would make a lovely souvenir.
Then, and this was the point we all got quite excited, to a kimono and obi wholesaler. Both new and used, they were priced for the department stores and available to us at huge discount. We went through the boxes like termites: 7 excitable ladies and lots of beautiful things! One of the loveliest obis had pictures of edo-period life and looked just like some of the antique screens I've seen in museums. I don't know how many threads it contained but it was so detailed it looked painted. 36,000 yen (the discounted price) was a bit steep for me, oh but it was fabulous. I ended up buying a garish red and gold obi that will be lovely and Christmassy either on the table or hanging down the stairs - and was saved from another by one of the other women snapping it up. The choice was almost overwhelming, which actually helped - it was so hard to choose I ended up just picking out the one. I also bought a wedding kimono because it was such a bargain (3500 yen - about 17 quid and I don't think you could buy the silk for that!) and a hanger for it, though I can't put it on the wall here because it is white and will just blend in. I vaguely toyed with the idea of cutting it up and using the material but the embroidery goes across panels so I think that would be a shame.
Lunch, and the trip was over. But Sarah had confessed during the morning that she didn't know about Chicago - a used-clothes shop on Omotesando, it has a reasonable selection of kimonos and obis. So we just nipped over there; she bought a second obi and I ended up, completely unnecessarily, with another kimono. It was too beautiful and too cheap to ignore. This one really might end up being cut up one day - when I learn to quilt (it's on the list) - or it might go on the wall here, as it's green. Or, who knows, maybe one day we'll be invited to a fancy-dress party and I'll have the perfect costume all ready!

Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Today's main post is very baby-oriented so I've put it over at baby blue so as not to scare anybody away. Those of you who prefer it nice and safe over here, I give you this article - if it's true then Cameron might one day get me to accompany him to Australia - and this, an electronic device that interprets your cat's miaows. Mine are basically saying 'feed me', 'let me out', 'let me in', 'stop ignoring me' or, in Jura's case, just singing. I don't think I need a fancy gadget.