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June 2005, England and Japan previous month
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next month August 2005, England and Japan
 
 

After 8 weeks in Japan, August 2005 saw me slowly trying to re-adjust to life in the Uk.
A beautiful wedding and many hours spent telling all about my last week in the land of the rising lavatory seat dominated the month, as did, my epilepsy, which unfortunately made a strong comeback...

 
 

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Click here for Part One - The daily Mumble June 2005
Part 2 - The Daily Mumble July 2005

(although part three, whilst related to my trip to Japan, actually comes live from the UK!)

Thursday 28th July 2005 04:30 (GMT+9) Japan

Hitch-hike to Tokyo

It's 4.30am and my phone is vibrating to the tune of 'Jingle Bells'. I would have chosen something a little less out-of-season, but my options are limited to either this or the sorts of tunes one could imagine as the soundtrack to a high-speed film of a caterpillar devouring a huge leaf.

IAlthough I've only slept for three hours, it doesn't take me long to come to my senses, as today is The Big Day. Today is the day I am going to voyage across 1000km of Japanese landscape, from Western Shikoku to Central Tokyo, by means of other people's cars.

The proposed route

I have hitch-hiked in Japan before; from Kushiro to Otaru, from Kyoto to Toyohashi, from Niigata to Sapporo. From my experience, I believe that hitch-hiking in Japan is no harder or easier than hitch-hiking in the UK. It's mainly a case of finding yourself a decent spot by the roadside, and smiling sweetly.

5.30am and myself, Keikun, Maido-san and his six-week-old puppy, Groomit (allegedly named after the famed English mongrel of Wallace and Grommit fame...?!? ) pile into the big truck and set off from the mikan-producing village of Karihama. Keikun has very kindly agreed to give me a head-start on my hitch-hike east, by dropping me off on a large road about an hour away from Muchachaen.

My journey then, begins here. It's now 6am, and the sun is just rising above the mountains that frame this valley. By lunchtime I should be on the main island of Honshu; by early evening Osaka; from there, catch a lift with a truck that's driving through the night to Tokyo.

Two hours pass...

I am watching the sun shine down from way above the same mountain. My

"Tsureteitte ittadakimasen ka" ("Would you be so kind as to give me a lift?"),

mouthed to passing cars through a broad smile has changed to

"Shinjirarenai!! Doushite boku wo mushi shiteiru no? Mo~! Doushite tsureteikanaino?! Kusakunai yo! Shinjirarenai...!" ("I can't believe it! Why are you all ignoring me? Ah! Why don't you give me a lift?! I don't smell you know! I just can't believe it...!")

I can continue waiting, or walk. feeling impatient, I choose the latter. Heaving my 35kg of luggage onto my shoulders, I wonder how far away the end of this small town is.

It's not long before I realise why no-one had picked me up. It seems that the people who so kindly dropped me off a couple of hours beforehand have clearly never had any experience of hitch-hiking (no surprise in Japan, where it is a rarity), as they had left me about 600m south of a huge junction, where most traffic turned off in the opposite direction to that in which I was heading! Feeling a bit fed up at having wasted two precious hours, I continue to walk through one of those never-ending built-up areas (you know, 'I'll just walk to the edge of town' ...only to find that this town becomes that town and there is nowhere decent to hitch this side of the Himalayas), until, to my delight, I stumble upon a railway station!

No. I'm not going to give in yet! I mean, come on, I've only been on the road for about 3 hours so far. Remember that time in Ireland? Easter Sunday 1994, waited for six hours and then got the most amazing lift right across the country? Ok, so he was a listed pedophile, and he did keep on trying to touch my willy when I fell asleep in the passenger seat of his car, but still, he took me the couple-of-hundred miles to my destination even though he wasn't originally heading in that direction). Well, anyhow, I'll just take the train to the beginning of the Expressway [motorway], you know, get off these quiet countryside roads, then I'll start hitching properly.

Now I am a great believer in fate. I know, as I get on the train, that there is some higher reason for my having been dropped off in what was probably THE WORST PLACE IN THE WHOLE WORLD FOR HITCH-HIKING, other than the one assoiciated with my friends' complete lack of hitch-hiking know-how. Taking a seat on the little local train, I realise what that reason was.

I had to meet this pilgrim.

In the early 9th century, the Buddhist Saint Koubou Daishi achieved enlightenment by completing a 1400km trek around Shikoku's 88 temples. Since then, thousands of Japanese have followed in his footsteps, seeking to find themselves by enduring the hardships that the journey entails. Hardships such as figuring out which is the windscreen wiper control in your new hire-car that you've picked up at one of the local airports, or paying the Expressway tolls as you bomb about the island.

This pilgrim, however, is doing it by train and foot, and it is going to take her about 6 weeks.

I am delighted to be able to communicate with her, and whisper a thank you to my teachers back in Sheffield. She is very kind, and following a lengthy conversation about what we are doing etc, she gives me a whole pile of milk-candies to help me on my long journey. We say our goodbyes a few stops down the line, but not before she has let me study her map, so that I may figure out where to get off the train in order to reach the expressway.

a very big bunch of bananas

Well, according to her map, I turn left out of the station, and the expressway is just a couple of hundred metres down the main road.

By now it's nearing 11am, and the sun is absolutely scorching, the temperature is 30°C, the humidity at least 95%. I walk for a few hundred metres down the road, but there's no sign of the expressway.

I see a cakeshop and decide to go and ask how far I'm going to have to walk. Entering the little store, I am greeted by the two women in their early thirties behind the counter; Irashaimase!, Irashaimase! They look at me with my huge rucksacks strapped to both my front and back, and try not to show surprise.

They instantly relax when I start to speak in Japanese - thank heavens they won't have to use the English that they studied for 11 years at school, but have now forgotten. The expressway?!! You're going to walk to the expressway?! They start to laugh, and I laugh with them. I am already a complete wreck, drenched in sweat following my short walk from the station - the expressway is obviously some distance from here, and I really am going to have to suffer to reach it. They'd like to be able to help more, but there's nothing more that they can do than tell me Ganbatte Kudasai! I - Good luck! Keep Going! I step out of the shop and into what feels like a very hot tumble drier. Only without the tumble.

It's another two kilometres to the junction. There's no respite from the sun as this road is one of those modelled on American designs. Wide, open, not a tree in site. Warehouse-type stores with huge great rotating signs on gigantic poles.

Finally I reach the intersection. An initial glance tells me that yes, this looks good, plenty of traffic around. I walk a little way up the expressway ramp, and stick my rucksacks down. My grey T-shirt has turned black with sweat. I take it off, wring it out and drape it over my rucksack to dry, before pulling out a fresh white one so that I can dazzle passing motorists.

...if there were any passing motorists. It's been half an hour now and only 5 vehicles have driven up this road beside me. Yes, this junction is busy, but none of the cars are going down my road. Why, I wonder? I think on it for a moment, and then the answer comes. Hmm, this expressway looks rather new, on it's sexy clean concrete pillars... I bet it was only built a few years ago

...and what did people do before it was built? Why, they used the perfectly decent main road that runs parallel to it. The perfectly decent road road that costs not a penny to drive down, unlike the expressway. The perfectly decent road that people continue to favour over the expensive expressway that was constructed not out of need, but rather out of greed by the local politicians who were only too happy to accept bribes from the construction industry. Let us not forget that in 1994 over 40% of Japan's national budget was spent on construction.

Realising that my hitch-hike was nowbeing sabotaged by the corruption that Japanese politics is so riddled with, I begin to despair. I've been on the road for about 7 hours, and covered less than 50km of my 1000km route.

Sod this, I'm taking the train. I stuff my now-dry T-shirt into my bag, pick up my rucksacks, and leave the empty expressway entrance.


Now the thought of making the long trek back along that mercilessly hot road to the railway station I'd just come from fills me with fear, so I decide to find out if the next station along the line (which basically runs parallel to the road) is any closer. To do so, I go into one of the big warehouse-type clothes stores, and approach the young lad behind the counter. Oh, yes, yes, it's much closer than the one you've walked from, he tells me. I thank him, and turn to leave. Oh, wait, let me draw you a map, he says. Oh, it's ok, I assure him, I know the way, I just have to follow the main road. Well, you could do that, he says, but I know a much quicker way. Here, let me draw you a map.

It would be rude to refuse, so I stand there and listen intently as he describes the route that he is now depicting on a large sheet of paper.

Finally, he seems to have finished his map. It takes me right out of the store, right again at the Pachinko parlour, along the little road and under the railway, right along the side of the rice paddies until I reach the river, which I cross, and turn left onto the main road. Follow that and...

He hasn't finished his map after all. Another large sheet of paper is produced, and is taped to the first in order that he may continue drawing.

Finally, his masterpiece is complete. I thank him many times for his kindness, but have no intention of following what I feel is more a Guide to Getting Lost in the Japanese Outback than a map to the next station. However, once out in the car park in front of the store I am dismayed to see that he is watching me to ensure that I start off in the right direction - the right direction according to his map that is. Well, I suppose he is local, and I am a foreigner, I suppose he must know best.

I turn right at the Pachinko parlour.

It's not long before I realise that not only will the map not take me to where I want to go, but that it won't actually take me anywhere. This landscape that the map depicts is a figment of the boy's imagination! OK, so there is a river - but it's flowing north to south not east to west - and there's no bridge. The main road is now at least a kilometre away, although according to the map I should be standing right beside it. My rucksack now feels like it weighs 60kg, and my trousers are soaked with the sweat that is running off my back.

I laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, and make this video. [hitch_hike.wmv 800kb 2 minutes 15 seconds]


Eventually I did find the railway station. It was right beside the main road that I'd been hitching on a couple of hours previously. It seems that if I'd not followed the map drawn with artistic license, and simply walked in a straight line along the pavement, I would have made it in about 20 minutes. Oh well, it had been fun ...NOT!

As I approached the railway station I saw, to my dismay, a "Wanman train" (so called on account of the fact that they are run by 'ONE Man who acts as both driver, guard and ticket inspector) pulling away from the platform. Oh well, I thought, this is Japan, they'll be another one along in 15 minutes.

Reaching the 'station' - I hesitate to call it such as it was in fact but two strips of raised tarmac in the middle of a field next to the railway line - I was reminded by the timetable that this was rural Japan, not Tokyo city; the next train would not be along for over one-and-a-half hours.

My God it was so hot - my arms felt like they were burnt to the bone. I knew that I'd surely die if I waited there, on the old cracked plastic chairs that lined the backs of the two platforms. They had obviously been feeling rather optimistic about passenger numbers when they installed about 16 on each.

I decided to go in search of somewhere cool, a cafe maybe, within the confines of this little village. Having spent my last 300 yen on two bottles of Pocari Sweat from a vending machine, I thought a Post Office might be a good idea too.

Two school girls were walking down the road towards me. This really is the countryside I thought, as they giggled upon seeing me, and then discussed what to say to the foreigner. They settled for a "Hello, how are you?", as our eyes met. I grinned, and replied "Fine, thank you", before going on to say, in very casual, feminine Japanese, "er, is there a post office around here?". This provoked a further outbreak of astonished giggles, and an answer - just across the bridge, turn right, you'll see it on your left. I thanked them and headed for the river.

Having withdrawn another £50 from my severely depleted Postal Savings Account, I stepped back out into what was, apparently, the main street of this tiny little village. I couldn't see anything that resembled a coffee shop, so decided to ask in the little supermarket on the corner.

There now follows an unedited extract from my diary, as scribbled later that day on the train:

Do you know of any kissaten (coffee-shop) around here, I asked, as I bought my 'Milk Bread' which tasted exactly the same as all the other bread, sickly sweet and very soft. I like it, but it's not bread!

Kissaten? Hmm, no, not here.

I just need somewhere to sit down for a while in the cool, until my train comes.

Well, you could sit here for a while, says the checkout lady.

Here?! I ask, surprised. Here in the supermarket?

Yes, here, between the register and the bread counter, she says, smiling.

She brings a chair and puts it down in front of the rolls on special offer, 4 for 200 yen.

I've not been sitting there long when a man enters the shop. Sitting near the door, the foreigner is the first thing that he sees.

Are you American? he asks me. I correct him, and we start chatting. I'm a teacher in the local school, look, I've got the school's name on my T-shirt. He must be the English teacher, I think, on account of the fact that he can't speak any English... ;-p

I tell him where I've come from, and where I'm going to.

Hitch-hike?! He's very surprised. The two women who make up the full compliment of staff in the supermarket join in being surprised.

Do you like chocolate or strawberry, he asks, indicating the flavoured breads. He buys me one, and I thank him many times. Ie, ie, ie he says.

Oh, before you go, do you mind, I'd like to take a photo of us! Hey, a photo?! The till lady and her co-worker both start to laugh, so I say, "The four of us!"

I put the camera on top of a freezer, initiate the self-timer, we pose, totta!

My teacher friend leaves the shop. I return to my seat between the checkout and the bread. A strange woman enters, obviously not quite 'there'. She is clearly quite fascinated by me, and spends 15 minutes pacing backwards and forwards behind me whilst clutching a bottle of Aquarius sports drink. I am embarrassed for the shop staff, and so politely ignore her completely.

A couple of minutes later the older of the two ladies working there appears from out the back witha big plate of watermelon - a present for me! I really am very touched by this gesture - and thoroughly appreciate the cool dripping flesh.

In the end I sat there for about an hour, and thought about how kind the Japanese can be. Would I receive this kind of hispitality in Wormelow Stores, Herefordshire, a shop similar in size and relative location? I doubt it.

Finally, it is time for me to return to the platform above the rice field and wait for my Wan Man train. I surreptitiously take a photo of the school girl on the opposite platform, overcome by the heat.

The little one carriage diesel train pulls up, I get on and take a little numbered piece of paper from the dispenser by the door. This will tell me which box to look at on the lit-up price list on above the driver's head.

I sit near the front of the tram-like train and watch the driver point straight-ahead every now and then. There's no-one else around to see him point, and I wonder why he does it. You see, in Japan, a tree DOES make a sound when it falls in the middle of a deserted forest.

After a while the train stops at a station, and the driver tells us that we'll be waiting there for about ten minutes. I approach him, and tell him that I want to buy a special ticket that will enable me to get back to Tokyo very cheaply. He says, ok, go downstairs to the ticket office. I get my wallet out to pay him for the journey so far, but he says, no, no, and gestures refusal. I thank him, get off the train and make my way to the ticket office downstairs.

This only takes a minute, but just as I am receiving my change someone appears at my shoulder asking me if I'm ok - it's the driver of the train, making sure I'm not having any problems! We return to our little train together, he takes the drivers seat, and I sit just behind him in grateful acknowledgement. I think back to the UK - can't see the driver of a Virgin Train abandoning his cab to help me buy a ticket!

It's a nice journey, through Ehime-Ken, beautiful countryside. Finally, we arrive at Matsuyama, the Big City. The first stage of my mammouth "hitch-hike" is over.


Once on the platform I look around for trains heading to Honshu, the main island of Japan. To my delight, I find one leaving very shortly from platform one. My only problem is, its an express, for which my cheap ticket isn't valid. But hey, in all my time in Japan I've never had my tickets checked - I'm sure it'll be fine.

We're about an hour into the journey, heading towards the northern tip of the island of Shikoku, when suddenly, the door at the end of the carriage opens, a man in uniform enters, removes his peaked cap and bows, announcing to all passengers that he will be inspecting people's tickets. Oh SHIT! Still, its probably only be another 2000 yen (£10) - good job I got that cash out of the ATM back at the countryside Post Office.

WHAT?!! 6120 yen?!! I try to swallow my disbelief and shock, whilst feigning "I don;t understand". The inspector breaks into fluent English, he knows the score. I feel like a naughty schoolboy. I don't like him. He doesn't like me. I am left with 81 yen, about 40 pence. Not even enough to buy a bottle of water with.

After three hours on this train I start to think that maybe it was worth it after all. We're crossing the Inland Sea, between Shikoku and Honshu, on a huge bridge that is a flagship for Japanese construction work. Numerous insect-like sail boats glide across the shimmering water, and a solitary tanker, towering above all else, moves at a snail's pace to one of the industrial ports on the South coast. As the sun sets, I'm taken back into the world of Donald Richie in his book, The Inland Sea, in which he describes his weeks spent visiting the countless small islands that populate the area. These little become reality before my eyes; each a differing shade of blue, rising out of an otherwise flat mirror. It's a beautiful sight, and one that I will treasure forever.

Finally, the train arrives at Okayama, on the main island of Honshu. I feel sad to have left my 'private' island. Muchachaen is indeed a long way away now, seperated by water. I'm back on 'boring old Honshu'. Shikoku already has that sens of exclusiveness about it in my heart. As with Hokkaido, many Japanese have never been there. I am happy to have been there, and I look forward to returning one day.

I'm now on a local train between Okayama and Himeji. I hope to get to Osaka tonight. I see the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and feel jealous!

2.30am.
On the pavement outside Maibara station.
Well well well. I thought it might come to this.
So, that last train took me to Himeji, and then at Himeji I discovered that there was a train coming all the way to Maibara tonight. Through Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and up to near the border with Gifu ken.

Only catch of course is that the trai stopped here, went no further. So here I am, with hours to wait until morning.

I waited in the station until 1am, when it shut. Oh, whilst waiting, i got chatting to a granny and her grand-daughter (who was pretty hot) (not the granny). All the usual stuff, british student, London terrorism etc. Then got on to why I wasn't staying at a Youth Hostel. I explained that I only had 81yen. Anyway, she insisted on giving me 1000 yen. I really did my best to refse it because I felt bad about accepting it, as if I was begging... but to no avail.

So yes, then off to the Konbini a bit later; onigiri.. then the problem of where to stay. I found a Muchchen style white van, and camped out in that for a while, but eventualy gave up as I felt a bit bad about that. And so here I am now, On the pavement outside the station. Watching a giant beetle dismantle an earwig.

to be continued...


Wednesday 3rd August 2005 21:01 (GMT+9) Tokyo, Japan

departure: 13 hours and counting

Very quick update to let you know that all's well. I am flying back to the UK tomorrow morning, and will update you all on what's been going on then...


Sunday 7th August 2005 00:51 (GMT+1) My parent's house, Herefordshire, UK

arrival

Hello. I’m back.

It’s 3.30pm. That is, 3.30pm here in the UK, here in Orcop, here in my old bedroom, where I’m sitting in front of my old computer, tap-tapping away in a bid to release some of the emotions that are engulfing me, following my return from 8 weeks in Japan, late last night.

It’s an interesting one this time. The return I mean. Very different from the previous returns. It’s difficult, as is to be expected, but not as utterly impossible as in previous years. Previous years have seen me utterly distraught, with my heart and mind remaining in Japan for weeks, even months following my return. In previous years there were many tears. I would wake up, and feel happy …until the hideous truth of the situation hit me, that I was not there, that we were not together. You know that feeling I’m sure. Waking up from the blissful ignorance of sleep, spending a few seconds, maybe even a minute, thinking about that weird dream about snowboarding Rhinos you’ve just had, or how warm the sun is on your face, shining through the crack between the curtains, when suddenly, BANG, it hits you. She has left you. He has died. There are no longer in your life: The day ahead will be filled with pain. You wish it were all over.

I am grateful that this is not how it is today. I feel tearful, but not enough to cry. I miss Japan, but I know that I have chosen to be here, in England, and England is a beautiful country too, and there are many beautiful people here whom I love and who love me.

It strikes me now then how little those harsh, heart-wrenching feelings of old were associated with Japan the Country. It wasn’t Japan the country that I so desperately missed, it was Japan the People, or perhaps I should say, Japan the Person.

It's not like that this time. It's Japan the country.

That’s not to say that this time I am not leaving anyone of importance.

Much of my time this past week has been spent in the company of someone whom I have come to care for a great deal over the past two years, in spite of our huge differences which, I believe, will ultimately not be resolved, but merely tolerated...

I am grateful for having gained a better understanding of her feelings and kangaikata – no matter how hard the process of achieving such familiarity.

I think that this photograph, taken this morning, pretty much sums up our relationship, demonstrating its two main themes. I'm sure the species is familiar to you.

So essentially, what I am having to deal with this time is a separation from Japan the Country. Due to the fact that I'll be back there in a year, this is not too great a problem, so all in all, I’m cool.

…Or at least I would be if my baggage wasn’t still in Paris (where my flight from Tokyo landed yesterday).

Air France grrr grrr grumble grumble. Ok, so they may be able to evacuate all of their passengers from a burning plane in under 2 minutes, but when it comes to baggage, well, I think a flock of very confused pigeons would do a better job. They tell me that it will be delivered today, but it’s now 5pm and I’ve not heard a peep from the delivery firm, the name of which Air France refuses to disclose. I have phoned them twice today, using my politely-pissed-off voice. Crikey I’d hate to have their job, those call-centre workers. Their set script involves quite a long apology at the end of the phone call, which, despite being totally impersonal and not at all sincere does actually make one feel as if they are genuinely sorry. Suckerrrrrrrrr.

Ooh I’ve just been hit by a bout of jetlag, better sleep.

xxx


Monday 8th August 2005 04:06 (GMT+1) My parent's house, Herefordshire, UK

a VERY early morning cuppa

I was delighted a few moments ago when, having just woken up, I switched on my laptop and saw what time the clock was displaying... I'd slept for TEN HOURS, with a brief interruption when I went into the garden and vomitted. Ten Hours! That's the first time I've slept for more than 4 hours consecutively since Tuesday 26th July, almost two weeks ago!

Of course the only problem is that I've woken up at four-in-the-morning, my body thinking it's midday. Oh well, it's a step in the right direction. I've asked my boss at The Welsh Garden Project (where I'll be working for the next month or so as of tomorrow) if they've installed flood-lighting yet.

So, almost 60 hours after my arrival back in the UK, how am I now feeling?

Hhmm, pretty much OK. Lonely, I'll say that, I am lonely, I would like to see my friends. It's kind of understandable really, as I'm pretty isolated here, and I have just had a pretty intense few weeks. But it's a loneliness that I feel could be cured without returning to Japan - a good sign me thinks. Quite handy too, as I'm broke, and there's no way I could afford the flight! Anyway, I'm actively trying to meet this loneliness by listening to music. I've just discovered a singer called Aimee Mann loitering in the depths of my hard drive. Thoroughly recommend her, especially the track Invisible Ink. Kind of Carpenters type.

I'm REALLY looking forward to going back to uni in late September. Really looking forward to seeing all my friends there - classmates especially, as well as tutors and staff. I'm also REALLY looking forward to working in Wales for the next few weeks. Good, rewarding physical work. Good food. Kind hosts who give me the space I need and who do generally know what's best for me!! The chance to study in preperation for next semester. All this AND broadband internet!! What more could I ask for?!! Oh, and of course, not forgetting, the wedding of the century about 12 days from now...

Yeah, so all's looking pretty good really. Considering.

lily

taken yesterday whilst almost falling into mum and dad's pond.

 

 

So maybe I should tell you about my last week in Japan? Tell you about the 'hitch-hike'. The sleeping rough, the Wanman Trains, the map from another galaxy, the kindness I was shown in the supermarket?

I think I need a cup of tea first. And a walk out into the fields to watch the sunrise.

one hour later...

That was lovely. The beauty of the English countryside really is quite spectacular. Unique, in my experience. Plenty of birds too (both the screeching and non-screeching variety, tee hee!). I also discovered that there's a signal for my mobile phone just along the road! There was I thinking that it was neccesary to travel at least two miles in order to get connected. Got a whole pile of texts, most sent on Saturday by the baggage delivery company telling me not to worry, my rucksack was on its way (in the event, it turned up here in Orcop about 25 hours after I landed at Heathrow). Oh, and from that wretched bloody company sms.ac or whatever the b*******s are called. I'm sure you've had the invites from your friends, 'sign up to send free text messages' etc. It's all a complete con. Essentially, you just end up getting millions of spam messages inviting you to view the profile of some Philippino virgin who wants a western husband. "Fallen Angel wants to be your friend. View her profile at http://blablabla... text 87865 to stop these messages" (read "text 87865 and be charged about 3 million pounds, then still get these messages"...) Philippino virgins are all very well, if only they spoke Japanese.

Anyway, enough about that. Where was I? Ah, yes, a 1000km hitchhike, right? Hmm, I'll just have another cup of tea, then tell you about it.


27 hours later...

Tuesday 9th August 2005 07:14 (GMT+1) The Welsh Garden Project Site, Monmouthshire, Wales

denial

I will tell you about it, I will, but I'm just having a bit of a hard time thinking about Japan at the moment. In denial, that's what it is. Can't quite face the reality of the situation, that I'm here. Not that 'here' isn't a nice place, because it is, but, well, it's just not there.

I'm now going through that stage of tying up loose ends. Over the past 8 weeks I have met many people, forged new friendships, brought about changes in friendships of old. Now is the time to reflect on how my relationships with these people have changed, to stand back and become familiar with the new positions that they take within my heart. It's an interesting process that requires an indirect approach. You know, just think about the things we did together, where we went, what we talked about, and then see what feelings arise.

Hmm, but things are ok.

I think it's time for breakfast.

 

pansy

 


Wednesday 10th August 2005 21:58 (GMT+1) The Welsh Garden Project Site, Monmouthshire, Wales

progress

So, I'm feeling pretty cool now re japan.

made-up girl (?!), Japan

I'm having pretty serious problems with my epilepsy. Yes, it seems to be back AGAIN. I'm not having any great big seizures or anything, but I have been having a lot of dizzy spells, minor petit mal-type episodes. Fearing that I may have a grand-mal (tonic clonic) whilst asleep, I have upped my medication, and am now left wondering, is this almost-constant dizzy state I now find myself in a great many minor seizures, or simply side-effects of my drugs? There's no point in me going to the doctor, as I know more about my epilepsy than they do - all they'd suggest is that I increase my medication and wait a few weeks to see what happens. The fact is, is that these minor seizures don't actually put me at risk, as I remain fully conscious and able to control my actions whilst having them. I cun even carrie on tiepin - aunt I clevre?

It's weird you know, in some kind of perverted way, I really enjoy the sensation of having a seizure. Is it the chemical taste in my mouth, the funny feeling in my chest? I don't know. Well, I am pretty hentai, so this shouldn't come as any surprise really.

Ok, I have to sleep. I will try to tell you about my last week in japan before the week is out. I've also got over 200 photos to upload... it's just finding the time, you know.

oyasumi xxx


Sunday 14th August 2005 16:44 (GMT+1) The Welsh Garden Project Site, Monmouthshire, Wales

techtalk

hello.

I've had quite a satisfying day off today, here in the Welsh countryside. At least, I think I'm in the Welsh countryside. Haven't really been out today to check. I did go to the supermarket to help mum #2 with the shopping, but that was a sanitised flourescent type of outness, complete with signs saying 'we're working to make your store even better', next to pictures of tomatoes - so that doesn't really count. No, instead, I've been catching up on stuff that I've been meaning to do for the past year, such as fix all the broken links in all my pre-2004 online photo albums. It's on days like today when I think to myself why on Earth did I put over 5,000 photos on the internet?.

I've also been working on setting up a Paypal account so that Mumblers who have far more money than sense can make donations to help pay for my, er, web-hosting. Not quite ready for launch at the mo, so don't get your gold card just yet. AND so eager am I to embrace the all new RSS Feed business that I've decided to publish a copy of The Daily Mumble on Blogger (see here). Works well with Firefox me thinks, the browser that all clever people use.

Get Firefox!

Ok, enough advertising. You didn't come here to be told which browser to use. And remember, the Original daily Mumble is here, at tamegoeswild, not over there, at blogger.

My dazed and confused state continues. I'm thinking now that it's mainly due to tiredness. Hopefully things will settle down in the next few weeks, after the wedding etc, but for now I'll just try and get plenty of sleep, take my usual amount of Epilim (to rule out side-effects of the anti-epilepsy drugs as a cause) and dream of the day that I am swept off my feet by a tidal wave of love as an angel of half-japanese origin descends into my life.

*update* Have managed to get RSS working with this copy of The Daily Mumble too, so will no longer use Blogger!!


Thursday 18th August 2005 22:10 (GMT+1) The Welsh Garden Project Site, Monmouthshire, Wales

in other news

I'm really tired, and full of tea. I have felt traumatised all day, since just a few minutes after I woke up. I turned the radio on (The Today Programme, Radio 4), just to check if The Earthquake had struck yet (it hadn't), and stumbled upon an interview with Michael Buerk (re. his outspoken views on gender), who, despite being a fellow BBC reporter was a right bitch to the woman interviewing him. It was pretty shocking. That sort of thing, really upsets me, you know, witnessing someone being put on the spot in an excrutiatingly public, painful way.

Then, I read an article in last weeks G2 (Guardian supplement). It was the story of a bus passenger who witnessed the stabbing to death of Richard Whelan - focussing on bystander apathy - absolutely shocking, I don't want to live in such a country where people care so little for others. No one did a bloomin' thing as that guy was stabbed to death.

Following my return from Shikoku to Tokyo City a couple of weeks back (I'm still in the process of writing up the story of that epic adventure across 1000km of Japanese outback) we spent a great deal of time together.

One of my favourite day-trips was to the incredibly tacky Eno-shima, "The Miami of Japan" according to the tourist bumph. Yeah, right. Mind you, there were some really cute bikini-clad girls there. My god if I was a dirty sleazy cheap nympho, with an incredible body and a talent for picking up women on beaches, in search of one thing and one thing only, that's where I'd head. Oh well, I'll just have to settle with having an incredible body, and dream about the rest. You know there, people were actually walking around town in just bikini's, or in the case of men, speedo's. Who'd have thought it, in Japan! Another illusion smashed, this place gets more like a normal country everyday. Next you'll be telling me that the Tea Ceremony involves putting a T-bag in a mug and adding hot water and milk...

When I was a girl...
enoshima

Eno-shima 'done', I boarded a little tram type train, Kamakura bound. Kamakura was once the capital of Japan, and is therefore packed with temples, shrines, toris and sexy zebra crossings. It's also famous for it's bronze Buddha - the largest in the world? We were knackered though, so instead sat in a cafe and ate crepes. I banged my head on the toilet door, so busy was I with reading the sign that told me to "Please flush because people are offended".

That was a really nice day. I felt so happy.

We were so much a proper couple were we in fact that we had a huge argument that night. Ahh, bliss.


The night before my departure for the UK I stayed at John John's - the first time that week. I felt that I'd rather abused JJ's generousity, by constantly coming and going. I'd arrive back at his place, and complain about so-and-so who I was never going to see again because it was all too stressful. I'd then listen to him talk a lot of sense (basically along the lines of you are SO not suited to one another, something I was only too keenly aware of), and then, after a phone call from the person in question agree to go and meet her again in about an hour ...and end up not returning to JJ's where all my belongings were. I can imagine that if I were him I would find this cycle exhausting, and quite painful too - seeing someone that you care about waste all their energy on someone who is clearly not anything like one of The Few because their libido was consistently over-ruling the common sense that their head was talking.

So anyway, that evening we went out with a mutual friend to a restaurant near JJ's house. By the time we got home it was about 11pm - and I still hadn't packed. In order to make my 10am flight from Narita I had to leave the house at 5.15am, giving me only a few hours sleep.

I'll set my alarm as well, John John said at about 12.30am when we were finally settling down. I'd given up on packing, and decided to do it in the morning. No, no, I tell him, I'll set my mobile phone's alarm (in a tone as if to say "I don't bother with those old-fashioned clockwork things anymore...).

What I have forgotten, however, is that my mobile is programmed to switch itself off at 2am, and unlike my English mobile phone it won't automatically come on again in order to sound the alarm.

Fast Forward to 4.45am. I'm being woken by a somewhat agitated John John who has just woken up, of his own accord. Oh shit, this is going to have to be the fastest packing of luggage the world has ever seen.

I RAN to the station in order to catch that train - Just made it. But then, sitting there, watching Ogikubo, Asagaya, Koenji go by, I think, hmm, I don't remember packing my digital camera... I check my bags - nope, it's definately not there. Shit - with a capital F. Where did I last have it? Oh yes, at the restaurant last night, I hung it over the back of the chair.

It's quick decision time now, as I have to change trains in 3 minutes. I could get off this train, get onto the airport train, catch my flight and return to England, before emailing John John to ask him to send my camera back to me. Oh, but I've been such a pain of late. He'd have to go to the restaurant, pick it up, sort out postage & insurance and all that rubbish - such a hassle - and I probably wouldn't get it for a while.

I can't go back to the restaurant and get it myself as it doesn't open until 11am, and my flight is at 10am, 2 hours by train from the restaurant! ...unless of course, I miss my flight.

With that I'd made up my mind. I'd go to the airport, change my flight for one the following morning, dump my baggage, and head back to Tokyo to pick up my beloved camera.

Thankfully it all went according to plan. There were seats available on the following day's flight, and due to the actions of a very kind travel agent in Sheffield I didn't have to pay any surcharge. Back to the restaurant - being Japan I was sure that it would have been put by safely - as it had been. Hmm, so I had an extra day in Tokyo, with I spent with my friend. We went to Tokyo Disneyland (my fourth time!). The fireworks we had been looking forward to were cancelled due to bad weather. The rides we wanted to ride had broken down, but we didn't really care. It's a Small World and Honey I Shrunk the Audience was enough for me. I screamed in that you know. Best bloomin' theme park attraction in the whole world - especially when the mice escape into the auditorium and run up your legs!

Oh, but then, that night we had a very difficult time, and I felt ill with stress and claustrophobia. It was my doing, silly boy. Thankfully we were able to work through it fairly quickly, and we slept well, in the hotel that had now become our second home.

Twelve hours later I was on a flight back to the UK, arriving safely, without my luggage which had managed to persuade the baggage handlers to let it stay in Paris for the night. Well, that rucksack always did have a romantic streak in it...


Sunday 21st August 2005 17:35 (GMT+1) The Welsh Garden Project Site, Monmouthshire, Wales

A Beautiful Wedding

A Beautiful Wedding came to the Welsh Garden Project (WGP) this weekend.

The bride was Suzie, daughter of one of the two owners of the WGP. The groom was Richie (her fiance, funnily enough).

I've known Suzie for many years - she was in the class below me at the Hereford Waldorf School, and one of my sister's best friends. However, it was only a couple of years ago, when I started work on the WGP, that I really started to get to know her 'properly', and naturally through her, Richie.

Recently, through my work here at the WGP preparing the grounds for the arrival of the 150+ guests, I've seen quite a bit of them both, and as a result of that have come to appreciate just how much I like hanging out with them. I think Richie is possibly the funniest man I've ever met - although their mate Trev has also made me fall to the ground with laughter twice this week (I kid you not. It was either that or wet myself).

...speaking of their mates - you could not meet a nicer bunch of people even if you went to the annual conference of the International Nice People Assocciation (INPA). Really funny, kind and generous - hmmm, damn sexy too.

So today is The Day After. The crowds have left - peace has returned to the grassy terraces above the Orchid House. Yesterday's celebrations seem more like the object of a vivid dream than a past reality. But unlike a dream it cannot be shrugged off. It's lingering.

I need to tell you about how the events of this weekend have affected me. I feel I ought to give you a chronological account of the day's events, I feel I ought to write about the lovely dress that the bride wore (made by her own fair hand), about the game we all played, where you have to hammer a nail flat into a piece of wood in only three strikes, about the mountains of gorgeous food, about the fireworks, about the assortment of fantastic homemade recycled presents given and received (as requested by the bride and groom, a great idea, beats a John Lewis Wedding List any day!), but I can't, as my heart wants to talk about other things, and I don't feel I have the strength to force myself to go down that road to a past reality. Instead I'll take the touchy-feely roundabout route, which may not actually get us anywhere, but the ride will be more pleasant. Probably.

It's been a weird one.

It began Friday night, when I got a text from my big sister, telling me that she was on her way to my parent's place, 12km down the road from the WGP. Having not seen her and her fella since New Year (although it feels like it was but a few weeks back) I was really happy to hear that, and gave mum and dad a call, asking if they could pick me up. It was a full house, as in addition to my older sister, her fella and his daughter, there was also my younger sister, her husband and my two adorable nephews. Plus mum and dad of course.

I found it pretty difficult to cope that evening. I don't think I've been there with that combination of folks before. Thinking about it now, I think I would have found it much easier had my brother been there too; he has a strong presence, and acts as a kind of sponge for that energy thrown off by my other relatives that I find difficult to absorb (the kind of energy sparked by family get-togethers!). (Don't get me wrong though - I was very happy to see everyone again.

I enjoyed Saturday morning very much, as Jamie and Ed, my nephews, were up and active. Well, Jamie was active at any rate - Ed, at about 3 months old (?!) is a bit too young to be running around the garden...

flight to the sun

We also had a surprise visit from my teacher of 5-or-so years, Roy, and his wife Charlotte. That was really nice, I've not seen them since Christmas.

my sister jessie with baby ed

jamie

The registary office bit was nice. It was all just so right - not just the relaxed ceremony, but the partnership as a whole - wonderful to be able to share in their only-too evident happiness. Yes, I know, that smells almost as cheesy as my feet after a very long day of walking around in two buckets of Stilton, but it's a fact.

Back at the WGP (which was serving as the reception venue) it was all hands on deck to get the food on the tables. I threw myself into that [cutting up all the various delicious cheesecakes, banoffi pies etc ;-) mm, but managed to cut my little finger on a cheesecake] ...but my motives were not wholly selfless.

Although this is not my house, it is my home, for the time-being at least. The garden, which was now festooned with pagodas, bunting and deckchairs, had taken on a completely different form and purpose from that to which I was used to. And the people - strangers, everywhere! In MY garden!! The garden that I have worked on so hard over the past few years was suddenly wrenched from my control. It was as if I had stepped into a parallel universe, the basic structure of which was only too familiar, but the details of which and the use to which it was being put were entirely alien. I was lost.

Thus the cheesecake cutting. A good way to shelter myself from the disturbing goings-on in the outside world.

As the proportion of people whom I comfortably knew shrank drastically, so my headache (a result of rather stupidly mixing beer and cider the night before at me folk's place) started to get the better of me. On top of that, I was shattered ...time for bed. I slept for two hours, before being woken by the sound of a little girl's voice as she emerged from the toilet next to my bedroom.

Unfortunately I missed the speeches, and I missed the photos. I also missed most of the desserts that I'd cut up a couple of hours beforehand, BUT there WAS a good deal of delicious cheesecake left, so I stuffed myself with that. Caw, it was bloomin great.

I my head was feeling a bit better by now, copious amounts of orange juice having been consumed before I went to bed, so I thought it was time to start on the beer.

And from then on, it was all great!

Firstly, hanging out with Alice (known since my schooldays) and her boyfriend James (lovey bloke) really brought me back into myself, following those hours of feeling like a lost soul. I know I always say it when I see her, but I'll say it again: have you ever met anyone as kind as Alice?

I then met some friends of Richie's that he once travelled across Africa with in a fire engine (the same fire engine that he came to my sister's wedding in, and the same fire engine that he drove to Spain with with all his mates for his stag-do a couple of weeks back). They seemed to know rather a lot about me, although I didn't even know their names. Turned out that dad, who had drunk quite a lot, had spent the previous few hours talking to nearly everyone at the wedding. His tecnique was somewhat unconventional: grab a chair, walk up to a crowd of people he didn't know, put his chair down in the middle of the group and start talking. After about 10 ~ 15 minutes he'd move on to the next group, having learnt all about them, their connection with the bride and groom, and their hobbies and interests. Despite my concerns at the time re. this somewhat over-confident approach, it seems that most people welcomed his disregard for social conventions. In fact, a good few people later said to me how much they admired and liked him, and my mother too - and wished that they had parents like that!! So yes, Dad, I Salute you!

Anyhow, we fast forward to about 9pm. I'm now sitting by the roaring log-fire that I've lit on the beautiful clay fire-pit that Suzie made last summer. I'm surrounded by these absolutely lovely people. And I mean lovely in every sense of the word... What an absolute joy it was to meet them. The girl with the sexiest digital SLR I've ever met was really nice - she let me press her button you know - but it was Sam, from Glasgow, that I particularly enjoyed talking to. It was such a pleasure to meet her, as in a short space of time we were able to go from introductory niceties to conversation on a level that really meant something. I trusted her absolutely, and felt able to share everything with her, without fear of judgement.

I was really quite shaken by that meeting. You see, it showed me once again just what nice people there are out there, the kind of beautiful souls who are the stuff of dreams. It rammed it home just how wrong a long-term commitment to my current care-bear would be. My god, these are the kind of people I should be sharing my life with. These are the kind of people it is worth going through hell and back for...

...and so, when Sam and her friends left this afternoon, I found myself feeling quite stunned. I believe it was more what they represented, rather than them themselves, that knocked me for six. They represented for me the kind of ideal life-partner that I dearly hope to meet one day. When they left, I felt like I had just missed the bus.

my nephew jamie

This afternoon I have been a right idol bugger. Playing with photos on my computer. Eating. Breaking Wind - I don't know what I ate last night but the amount of gas it's given me is staggering. Oh, that reminds me, it was so~ embarrasing last night.

I was on the loo, when someone tried to open the locked door. I called out, "won't be a minute", to which I heard the reply, "Oh, sorry!". I recognised the voice - it was that very attractive woman with the supermodel legs, complete with mini-skirt to show them off.

Anyway, so I'm sitting there, when suddenly I am surprised by the emergence of the biggest fart ever done by a human bum. To make matters worse, this huge trumpet-like utterance is amplified ten-fold by the toilet bowl - there is no way that anyone within a ten-mile radius could not have heard it.

I pray that the supermodel has gone to find another toilet.

As I open the door, I find her leaning against the wall right beside the doorframe, with a huge grin on her face.

I smile meekly, and scurry off in the direction of the bar.

aaaagggggggggggggggggghhhh!

 

UPDATE!!

It seems that the supermodel was NOT ALONE the other side of the door!

Some one has just handed me a copy of a photograph that was taken as I sat on the loo preying that no-one had heard my fog-horn bum!!

Note supermodel leaning forward towards door (just out of frame) on the left!


It's now midnight, and my head is beginning to re-align itself with the reality to which I am used, that's the one where I live in the peace and quiet of the Welsh Garden Project, doing lots of healthy physical work during the day, and studying Kanji in the evening. There's only two other people and a dog with whom I need interact (the bonus being that I enjoy interacting with them), and there's little alcohol to leave one feeling emotionally vulnerable.

It really was a lovely wedding, but I'm glad it's over. It's tremendous that we were able to pull-off such a fantastic event - but I don't think I could do it again next week if asked - the amount of energy required, both phsyical and emotional, is quite spectacular.

Still, Suzie and Richie are worth every last calorie. I really feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play a small part in making their wedding happen, and I wish them all the happiness in the world for many years to come.

xxx

The bride leads her husband of five minutes off into the woods...


Monday 22nd August 2005 23:22 (GMT+1) The Welsh Garden Project Site, Monmouthshire, Wales

The Daily Mumble - now Click here for the feed enabled!

Just a brief note to let you know that The Daily Mumble is now RSS enabled, meaning you can use a newsreader to automatically catch TDM headlines, or, if using the wonderful Firefox web browser you can have an automatically-updated drop-down menu like this:

It lists all recent entries, so you can check if I've written anything without even having to visit TGW! Ohhh how exciting!

To learn more about RSS click here. The Daily Mumble RSS Feed is here.

p.s. I won't be bothering with Blogger anymore...


Thursday 25th August 2005 18:19 (GMT+1) The Welsh Garden Project Site, Monmouthshire, Wales

Living in 2 out of 3 realities

hello. I'm feeling rather good today. Analysis reveals that this is due to a number of reasons (now come on, you didn't seriously think I could leave it at "feeling rather good today" did you?!), most of which are not exactly connected with my immediate reality.

 

CENSORED!

Oh poo, those crafty Tame Goes Wild censors have stepped in and demanded that I remove the story relating to the above graphic due to its offensive nature! Cheeky F***** bloody buggers. I would ignore them, but you may recall that the last time I did so I ended up frantically trying to contact my friend in London who owned the server, from a phone box in Italy, asking him to take TGW offline. Never again.

Well, I went to soooo much trouble to create the graphic that I'm not going to take it down. No, instead, I invite you to guess WHAT the story was about, or, WHAT the colours represent, or make up something completely disconnected with the graphic or reality and send it to me via email.

oooh I can see a rainbow out of my window. Glad I'm not in a tent tonight what with this mad weather at the mo tee hee (evil grin as he thinks of the 20+ people who are in tents here tonight!).

So yes, that's what's going on at the moment - absolutely nothing!!

I'm so happy though. Isn't life wonderful? Aren't I lucky to be alive and in good health (with the odd epileptic seizure of course, had about 25 'dizzy spells' today), surrounded by kind loving people, with a bag of nuts in my hand. Oh, raisins too. I really do appreciate every day, I really do, because there is no tomorrow.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

OH blimey I nearly forgot, the whole purpose of this entry was to let you know that I have added the next part of my account of my Hitch Hike to Tokyo. Click here to go straight to the new bit.

tarra!


Saturday 27th August 2005 16:49 (GMT+1) The Welsh Garden Project Site, Monmouthshire, Wales

...heartache for local family

and Japan's answer to a declining birthrate

Ahh, good old local newspapers, don't you just love them. Pick up a copy of a national paper and the chances are it would have a headline that read something like "45 dead, 200 injured in Baghdad as bomb detonates in packed mosque".

As I stepped out of the bath this afternoon, my gaze fell to the floor, where the Monmouthshire Beacon lay, discarded by the last person to sit on the loo. My eye was caught by the headline,"... heartache for local family". The first word was masked by my T-shirt that lay on top of it. I started to wonder what sort of heartache they were suffering from that might end with the letters '..nd'.

After a couple of minutes spent drying my babylike skin and marvelling at the fact that the wound inflicted upon me by that tic in Japan is still showing, I gave up attempting to guess the grim word for the start of the front-page headline. 'Cancer', 'Murder', 'Suicide', 'Hit and Run', 'Rape', 'Sulphuric Acid', 'Giant child-eating Ant' - none of them ended with the letters '..nd'.

Ah, Pond heartache, I should have guessed.

So then I'm thinking, right, two of the children have fallen in a pond and drowned, right?

I read on.

Ah, the casualties are 3 goldfish and a dozen tadpoles.

And that's why I love living here in the middle of nowhere, because nothing ever happens, apart from the odd bit of bleach being poured into a garden pond.

Incidentally, I then read on, and learnt that the garden in which the pond lies is virtually inpenetrable from the outside due to a very high fence and padlocked gates, and that the family have no enemies. So now I'm thinking, I bet it was the older child, rebelling against his mother who is clearly a witch, judging by her Hermon Munster expression in the photo below the article. Either that or the editor was so short of headlines (no notable deaths due to old-age this week in the neighbourhood) that he asked his family to pose beside the pond in his back garden that had been empty for a number of years.


Saturday 27th August 2005 18:24 (GMT+1) The Welsh Garden Project Site, Monmouthshire, Wales

I smell translation software

Last week I sent a Thank You card and photograph to the organic farm in Japan where I spent a week making charcoal at the beginning of the summer.

Today I received an email in reply from the mother, who, despite not speaking any English, wrote using my mother tongue.The subject line was: "A photograph is received".

How are you?

A photograph was received.

There is popularity in roguhausu. [log house!]

They are thanks to joseph.

It was very pleasant at that time.

A photograph is seen and remembered.

Get along cheerfully.

Mail is done again.

Well, to father, mother.

Good-bye.

Yes, I will get along cheerfully, and say Well to father, mother.

Who writes that software, and how on earth do the companies that produce it stay afloat?


Saturday 27th August 2005 18:40 (GMT+1) The Welsh Garden Project Site, Monmouthshire, Wales

torrential floods hit my old hometown

Speaking of staying afloat (oooohhh) I just had some photos through from Doug in Switzerland, whom I used to live with up in the Alps. He's still out there, enjoying the latest product of global warming...

Just incredible.

The number of times I've taken that train and cycled up that road - hmm, those folks living in Grindelwald are stuffed!

Hardly a day goes by now without some Global Warming related news making the headlines (except in the area covered by the Monmouthshire Beacon of course). Yet still Bush insists that Global Warming is not actually happening, let alone a problem. Oh if only the Americans could actually elect someone with a bit of sense... bla de bla de bla. Mind you, I did use a chainsaw today, and burn the two oaks that I felled. Crikey, I'm such a hypocrite.

The Daily Mumble August 2005 Archive

 

 

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