Sunday, February 29, 2004
spring cleaning
Phew! Do men get the nesting urge too? Cameron has shampooed every carpet in the house this weekend! (OK not entirely from choice; we hired the shampooer and it had to be done.) Eurgh , how revolting; where did all that grime come from in a house where nobody wears shoes indoors? (Cats, by any chance?) And I have cleaned and laundered and tidied and sorted until I feel quite exhausted. Still, we've been here two years and virtually ignored it, so it definitely needed doing.
We also acquired a secondhand chest of drawers, enabling me to put all the baby stuff away. And assembled the changing unit, busy busy busy!
We went for teppanyaki with some friends last night, which was delicious, but I couldn't cope with being in a roppongi bar afterwards so we nipped off home. I don't think they are used to pregnant bellies in roppongi and I have rarely felt quite so out of place as the pretty young things in skimpy tops boogied about. Apart from two people behind us who were fast asleep, heads down on the table.
Oh, and hooray! I seem to have got through the day without producing a baby who would only have one birthday every four years.

Thursday, February 26, 2004
Ooh I just thought. Hope no burglars are reading this, else they'll know how much cash I have in the house...

money woes
Been feeling distinctly nervous today, since I went to the bank and withdrew the money for the deposit for the clinic. God bless the NHS: you might not get a foot massage but neither do they demand you present them with £1000 cash when you show up in labour. Luckily I am in Japan and can walk about with a large amount of cash - we do so routinely (not quite such large values usually) as it is still such a cash-based society. The upside to that is that you can pay for a coffee with the equivalent of a £50 note without the shopkeeper batting an eyelid.
I also tried to pay in some money to our account. Now if you remember I have had huge frustrations before, not being allowed to transfer money out of the country in case I am running off with Cameron's cash, but I assumed I'd be able to pay in. It seems not. After quizzing me (where has the money come from? A gift? Who from? Why, is it your birthday?) she informed me that because (quote) it is not a joint account it is your husband's account (cue heavy sigh from me) I am not allowed to put in a bank draft - made out in his name I might add! - without his written permission. Bah. (Let's think about the logic of this. I am suspected of stealing a banker's draft in his name and trying to surreptitiously pay it into his account? Bad me.)
What else? Oh I took my too-small sheets back to the baby shop, felt quite proud of myself as I've never done returns before. Couldn't resist some little pink Mia-sized items of course...
And on the train home a lovely lovely man gave up his seat for me, even telling the girl stood between me and it, about to plonk her bum down, that she couldn't have it. I think my hormones are reaching saturation point as I nearly cried!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Arg! I've been singing the praises of Bloomin' Marvellous for agreeing to ship the cot I wanted from the UK (most of the companies I approached either didn't reply or said they couldn't do it. Or charged a fortune.) However, when it finally arrived today (2 1/2 weeks rather than the promised 5 days. No idea why - if you bung something in the postbox it takes 5 days so why should a courier take so much longer? FedEx took a week to get it to me once it had arrived in Tokyo, mind.) there was one parcel missing! I don't know what was in it but I have received an email telling me they forgot to send it and will do so soon. Fantastic.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004
I encountered the friendliest taxi driver in the world today! And he was understanding enough to speak in very very simple Japanese so we had a lovely chat all the way home. He expressed surprise that I'd been all the way across town to do some shopping; we discussed the fact that I was having a baby soon (he thought it was scarey. He has two teenagers who are not scarey but are noisy!); we talked about how Japanese was very difficult (of course) although he was of the opinion that English was more difficult and showed that the only thing he could say was this is a pen! He could say that jolly well though, I thought. And he pointed out all the plum trees in the park and we discussed the fact that it would soon be cherry-blossom season. So sweet.
And that was my day.

Monday, February 23, 2004
OK I'm feeling a little more coherent today. Though I do just want to say that little Mia is the spit of her mother and definitely has a Stewart nose!
I wanted to tell you about reclaiming my bicycle on Friday (Cameron left it parked at the station and got it impounded). I had to find the pound, located under the railway tracks (and quite full of bikes I was pleased to see), then fill in a form and produce ID to show I was who I said I was (not sure why as there's nothing on my bike to say it belongs to anyone of my name and address). And pay a fine of course. Then they insisted I take a packet of tissues, led me along the rows until I found my bike (like an identity parade) - which I proved was mine by having a key that fitted. I then stood for a good 3 minutes while the old boy dusted down my bike with a nice soft cloth. I wanted to explain that it hadn't been that clean before, but instead just let him polish. Would that happen anywhere else? Do cars towed in the UK get put through a carwash on collection?!
Saturday morning was spent at the clinic - a checkup-cum-massage as usual then a 2-hour 'class' during which she explained about labour and what to take (lots of cash and towels). And when to go. Then Ally arrived back from Korea, exhausted after a hard night of korean food and karaoke. He left again early Sunday morning and Cameron, despite being tired, made the mistake of failing to express a preference for the day's activities. Meaning that he got sent down the road for a haircut, then we met for lunch and visited a shrine sale (I bought a nice green vase that we discovered was metal when Cameron bashed it off a wall) before heading across town to koishikawa korakuen garden to look at the plum blossom. Us and about a million old people in orange baseball caps. It was such a beautiful day we were out in T-shirts but still, I'm sure he'd rather have been at home. He'll have to speak up faster in future!
The weather broke in the evening with strong winds and the first rain in I don't know how many weeks. So much wind one of the insect screens blew off our bedroom window, landing with a crash on the patio and scaring me witless. I have a man here trying to fix it now, but he's dropped it back onto the patio three times himself so I don't know how much success he is having! I want him to check all the others as it seems quite dangerous having them drop off, but I'm not sure how to ask him.
And speaking of not being sure how to communicate with people, I was approached by a girl and a chap with a camera in the international supermarket this morning. They wanted to interview me about frozen bread (I think) but, despite it being an international supermarket and despite her wanting to compare the consumption of frozen bread in the UK and Japan (I think), the girl spoke no english. She made valiant attempts, I'll give her that. Eventually she gave up, asked me if Japanese was OK - I said I only spoke a little - rattled off some very fast very fancy Japanese then collapsed into embarrassed giggles when I had to admit I didn't understand.
Wonder if I'll be on the telly?

Sunday, February 22, 2004
I'm an aunty!
Lots of love and congratulations to Suzanne, Chris and their beautiful new daughter Mia Elise.
I had lots of nice things to tell you about bicycles and spring and our weekend but it is all just going to have to wait until tomorrow, by which time I should have stopped whirling about!

Friday, February 20, 2004
More delicious placenta recipes, plus some interesting arty ideas, here. (Didn't fancy last week's roast placenta? Surely placenta lasagne will tempt you!)

Cameron's match report from last weekend's game can be found here. I'll be washing his mouth out with soap and water when he gets home of course!

Thursday, February 19, 2004
Um. See the comment on the post below? Is that a new and sophisticated form of spam (not only targeted by name on the post but also an email to my yahoo address, managing to remove the NOSPAM and everything) that I should ignore? Or is somebody I don't know called Evelyn desperate to get in touch with me for some reason (in which case, why not email me about whatever it is in the first place)?
OK I think I answered my own question. Evelyn, if you're not spam, please email me and say so.

change of address
I know none of you ever use it, but if anyone out there has my phone's email address as an emergency contact or whatever, I've had to change it. Too much spam was wearing out the batteries. If you email me (on my normal yahoo address) I'll let you have the new one.
While I'm here we were pleased to see the darkness doing so well at the Brits, but a little concerned. Best album with falsetto singing and a song about badminton, yes; but best album full-stop? Being so out of touch, we are hoping it is a vote appreciating their humour, not that the great british public has been hankering for soft rock for all those wilderness boy-band years. Can somebody reassure me?

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
it never rains but it snows
Pours. But in a good way. It's never sunny but it's really sunny.
Sorry, I'll start again. Yesterday I did loads of nice stuff, about a week's worth! I met Kavitha in the morning for a slow walk to Shibuya, enjoying the spring sunshine. A quick coffee stop, then we went to the Renoir and Monet exhibition at the Bunkamura, which, of course, was packed (though I hadn't realised until this minute that yesterday was the last day so perhaps that's why). I am insufficiently educated about art to really comment and will just say that it was a nice exhibition with some lovely paintings - and how strange that they both painted the same bridge.
Lunch, then I left K to hit the shops and walked up to Omotesando to meet Scarlet for a cuppa. Not just any old cuppa but a Very Special Cuppa (site all in Japanese, sorry). From the vast tea menu, I decided to try white tea, while Scarlet opted for Jasmine Oolong. (Didn't know what white tea was - though it was nice - but a bit of research tells me it is simply steamed and dried tea leaves.) The waitress of course had to explain how we drank our teas. Mine was exquisite: dried leaves looking like a flower arrangement in a tall glass jug - I had to add warm water, wait 5 minutes (using a sandglass) then pour it into a little cup, previously warmed with more warm water, and drink it using the saucer. Accompanied by one of the nicest bean-and-rice cakes I've ever had. Scarlet's was even more elaborate and came with a paper funnel of tealeaves to be sniffed. Once her tea had brewed (just 30 seconds) she put it into a small vessel to sniff then into a cup to drink.
Next, to Odaiba to meet Cameron after work for the return of the king! Hooray! I was so worried that I wouldn't get to see it before the baby arrived - it's only just been released here - I insisted on going at the first available moment. It was every bit as fantastic as expected and all I can say is: those people who thought I was silly to be scared of spiders? Now admit I was right! I can't believe I managed to sit still for so long but was utterly gripped and didn't even notice the time passing (until it ended and we tried to leave, when I found that everything had seized up). And I'm not usually a battle-film sort of girl.
Unfortunately everything else on my 'to do before the baby arrives' list is much less fun. Apart from a holiday in Costa Rica, but I'm thinking that might not happen.

Monday, February 16, 2004
mystery solved
I'm afraid you are all going to be quite disappointed. The tupperware pots? They are for putting in wet cotton wool and keeping it damp in order to clean the baby's bottom. How dull. Checkup today and everything is still fine: the baby has obligingly turned around to have its spine on my left (this is The Best Way) - I thought it had because it is now kicking on the right - and the midwife says I have a 'good tummy'. She had a lovely time in the UK and the baby she'd gone to deliver conveniently turned up the day after she arrived so she took herself off to Portugal for a few days! She gave me a back massage so hard it hurt after finding some tight knots; my back felt fabulous for about an hour and is now worse than ever! (Is that like what my mum calls a clearing shower?)
A nice weekend - Ally kindly brought an enormous bag full of cot-sized bedding (now I just need a cot to put it on) and self-raising flour and I managed to stay up until 1 am! Can't remember the last time I did that.
So windy this morning my glasses flew off and rattled down the street.
I was in a shop today that claimed to be selling ladies' bottoms on the third floor (didn't have time to go up and see)!
And that's all my news.

Friday, February 13, 2004
Only an hour of work to do today - half an hour of absolutely no-stress manuscript tweaking then an emergency half hour this afternoon on the abstract book that I was assured had gone to print on Wednesday. And I've finished! Hoorah!
I feel like I'm on holiday too because the weather has turned quite spring-like. I'm not sure whether to trust it given that we didn't really have a proper winter (this is a Good Thing as I would never have got into my winter coat but a Bad Thing because I like snow and feel sad not to have seen any). Mind you we didn't have much of a summer last year either so maybe that is related. Sorry, I'm wittering (and about the weather too, how terribly british). The plum blossom is out, there are small birds in the trees, and the bathroom can be de-steamed by opening the window without risk of icicles. And I stayed in bed until 9.30 (entirely missing the meeting I had intended going to but never mind.)
I washed all the newborn-size nappies this moring: I can absolutely guarantee that was the last time I will find it exciting to be laundering nappies (unless I turn into one of them on this site, which I've just stumbled across - it claims that most women who hate doing laundry absolutely love washing their diapers. Really? It also claims one of the reasons to use cloth is because it's fun. Weirdos.). I've also made a start on my 'one room a day' programme, starting small with the spare room. All tidied, the kimono and one of the pictures are finally hung on the wall and I've washed and ironed the bedspread ready for Ally tomorrow. (Ally, who was our best man, is popping in overnight en route to a meeting in Korea. How very jetsetting of him.)

Thursday, February 12, 2004

mixed feelings
Half of me is going YAY!! because I *think* I am finally on maternity leave. I may have one small tidying-up job on one small manuscript but that's all. The other half of me is feeling really bad at letting people down over the last job. I had tomorrow in my diary as the deadline - and warned them last week that yesterday was a bank hol here - so felt I could safely refuse to work yesterday. Cameron was off so it was nicer by far to spend the day together (better make the most of our last few weeks of freedom!), stuffing our faces in pizza express and pottering around tower records. So today I stayed home, missing yoga and taiko, and waiting to hear what she wanted me to finish off (it goes without saying that I'd receeved no communication - that has been the theme throughout the project), expecting pdfs of the final version of one piece, just for a final check, and the first laid-out version of the second piece for a day of toing and froing before sending it to print tomorrow. Instead, at 11 am, I received an email stating that it had all gone to print and that I should send my invoice.
I am such an unprofessional. Bet it looks horrible. Bet I get blamed if she never gets any work again. Bet she never wants to work with me again.
On the other hand: no more work! I can go and see love, actually this afternoon as planned, spend next week rushing about manically doing fun things (my diary is quite full) and start getting the baby stuff together and out of the plastic shopping bags. Whee!
(oh but I feel guilty.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
a tupperware pot?
I came home from my checkup yesterday with a list of things I need to pack to take to the clinic. In Japanese, of course, but we had a lesson yesterday so that was fine, I just had my teacher translate. I have no idea why I am to take two tupperware pots (largish and deepish - a followup email from the midwife suggests about 20 cm square). Will we be making fairy cakes?
Does anybody have any suggestions? They are not going to give me my placenta to bring home (having chopped it in half to fit in the pots). Are they.
I also have to take about a million towels and lots of cash. Sigh. And everything has to be named (I wonder whether my mum has any nametags left from when I was at school?)

Monday, February 09, 2004
Tweet tweet tweet
Much chirpier today thanks. Working at the weekend might not seem like a recipe to a stress-free existence but it meant I could work steadily today - and have the morning off - without getting all hyperventilatey. I have eaten another pack of polos, sounding like a rock-crusher, but the end is definitely in sight.
I was very excited on Friday night when my sister didn't sign in to msn...I thought I was about to become an aunty!...but it turned out msn was down so no news there. I am racking my brains to remember what we did this weekend but am thinking it can't have been so exciting. Friday night we were definitely in: Cameron was watching Scottish football and I was dashing up and down stairs helping my friend Helen sort out her new blog with comments and tracking and whatnot (go and visit, it will make her happy: the old lady).
Saturday we went out to Saitama to have lunch and spend the afternoon with Hiro and Tomoko. We spent the afternoon tucked up cosily under the kotatsu, eating delicious home-made sushi and strawberries. Yum. Granny came in at one point and pressed beautiful paper dolls - which she makes - on me but scuttled off before I could properly thank her. They are beautiful!
Saturday night we watched the pianist...Cameron knows how to pick a cheery feel-good film! Sunday we had breakfast in bed - got to make the most of these luxuries while we still can! Then Cameron played footy - apparently they, the second team in the league, were beaten 8-0 by the bottom team in the league (who hadn't scored a goal in I don't know how long). So that's very good. I went to Shinjuku for a potter about, buying all sorts of exciting items like clothespegs, detergent and potatoes (and some plates just because they were nice). Woohoo. Then came home and worked for the afternoon.

Friday, February 06, 2004
Can I start my leave now?
Would it be really unprofessional to start one's maternity leave midway through a project you've agreed to take on, simply because it is getting on your nerves? Probably, though I am now a week past my supposed finish date. I found myself 3/4 of the way through a packet of polos today about 20 minutes after opening the packet. This is always a sign of stress: Rosie and I used to chain-crunch citrus polos to get us through poster season. I've also eaten 8 squares of dairy milk. Things are bad.
Can I have a small whinge? Actually I'm not feeling that eloquent, I just want to go GAHHHHHH and perhaps make my mum's cross face. (My sister tells me now the baby can hear I am not allowed to swear, nor even to darn the blooming project, but have to say that mummy is very cross.)
But honestly, things are either urgent or they're not. Aren't they? I started at 7.30 this morning as I'd promised to return the piece by lunchtime. Only it is now 5.15 and I am still waiting for the answers to my queries (which I need to complete it) that I was promised first thing this morning. Nobody is answering my email though I did get a reply to the capital-letter one I sent asking if I could possibly have contact telephone numbers for the people involved. And secondly, the other part of the project, which has made it to layout: I have just re-sent the layout people half of the amends I sent through yesterday as they had been ignored. Of course I was terribly apologetic as ever.
Oh and the icing on the cake was when they confessed that they didn't understand my proofreading marks. (These are standard: how can any layout team that has worked with an editor before not understand that, for example, lc means lower case. Especially when it is next to a load of capitals!)
OK sorry I've got that off my chest. I will now go and listen to soothing music and think about waves rushing in. While coming back to check my email every few minutes on the off-chance I might have received a reply. Thank goodness I turned down the second half of the project (due early March!)
One nice piece of news though: I took a lunch break to meet a friend, and it seems she's pregnant! Anyone who's anyone, you know...

Thursday, February 05, 2004
clutching at straws
Occasionally my job makes me smile. Like when people let their spell-checker have free rein and allow it to claim that Texans are a standard cure for breast cancer...

Maxton says: I have a funny story... takes some time to tell...
Lisa says: go on then
Lisa says: Im all ears
Maxton says: I've got a friend in the metropolitan police...
Maxton says: he's got a friend who's just left the army and wants to join the cops
Maxton says: so he asked my friend to help him fill in the application
Maxton says: one of the sections asked for an incident when the applicant had encountered somebody from a different culture and how they had dealt with it
Maxton says: he wasn't sure what to put, so he asked
Maxton says: and my friend said: when was the last time you met somebody from a different culture
Maxton says: and the bloke said, well, this iraqi soldier in the gulf
Maxton says: and my friend said, well, that's perfect. What happened
Maxton says: and the bloke said, I killed him

Wednesday, February 04, 2004
This week's total so far:
You're huge!: 1
Oh but you're tiny: 3
And a special mention to the lovely, deluded, lady who claimed that I don't even look pregnant from the back and that I still have a waist.

Monday, February 02, 2004
I'm so sleepy. And, bizarrely given that I officially start my maternity "leave" this week, I have loads of work on. More than I've had for the past few weeks when I was supposed to be working. Must learn to say NO. But it's raining so I'm not too worried about having to stay indoors. Staying awake is a different matter.
Friday I walked. Alison and myself decided to have a little adventure, which got off to a bad start when navigational landmark number one turned out to be a restaurant. Tokyo being what it is, of course the restaurant is no longer there. No matter, we trooped back undeterred for a Starbucks ham and cheese sarnie before continuing with the adventure. First stop an amazing art-deco house: apparently some 1930s prince who studied in Paris fell so in love with the art-deco movement he constructed his house in style when he returned to Tokyo. It's now a museum set in some extensive (for Tokyo) grounds and is fabulous: what wonderful furniture! Packed full of people on Friday, presumably because it was the last day of the exhibition (of more art-deco pieces). I was told off for touching a door but otherwise it was worth a visit.
Next stop, wilderness. I had no idea that in the heart of the city there is a section of untouched land complete with 500-year-old trees. It's a nature study reserve now: you have to wear a ribbon when you enter so they don't get too full and once inside it feels somewhat like Surrey woodlands. The traffic noise disappears (drowned out by the crows I expect: I have never seen so many in one place in my life. Quite disturbing.) There's a lake and some scientific signs but mostly just peace and quiet and leafy smells.
Saturday was part two of our childbirth class. It was quite different from the one my sister attended last week ("life after baby" ha ha) where she was given strategies for having a good boozy night out while breastfeeding (pump and dump). We were more concerned with the mechanics of giving birth and what to do afterwards. Saturday night we went for dinner for Cameron's belated birthday. The waiter told me the main course I'd chosen was quite large and was I sure I wanted it (I decided I was - I'd rather have the thing I want and leave some if it is too big than have something I didn't really fancy). Of course I managed to eat the whole thing and had room for pudding. I will never learn to eat like a Japanese girl. (Scarlet O'Hara had to eat before going to parties so people thought she had a dainty appetite; I wonder if they do that here?) I expect they are still talking about me.
Yesterday I lay on the sofa being tired until 4.30 or so when I nipped out to meet Fiona-from-Fukuoka who was briefly in town. Cameron managed a trip to the gym, he is very good.