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    Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    Vikings!

    Gertrude: "What's all that noise out the front dear?"
    Arthur (looking out the window): "Ahh!, it's those damn Vikings again! They'd better not trample on my rose bed or there'll be hell to pay!"


    It was a little odd, I must say. Sitting in a nice quiet tea-shop in yee ancienty city of York, sipping a cup of Lady Grey whilst nibbling on a scone (thant's 'scone' like 'own' not 'scone' like 'on'), watching hundreds of Vikings march past the window in full battle dress!

    I must admit, it was a more than a little odd, it was decidely worrying, so much so that I feared for my *Cough's* life should the Vikings decide to stop off for elevenses. There was nothing for it, I had to get myself armed and ready for battle. Thankfully, the shop next door had just the thing I needed - and it was on sale too!


    Only 750 quid? A bargain! I thought I'd best get my lady a little protective gear as well...


    Oh, woops, wrong photo...



    Now clad in full body armour I marched, well, sort of staggered actually, it was bloody heavy, down to the plain where the battle was to take place between the Viking warriors and the local troops.

    All four of them.



    Of course, I did the thing that any noble warrior would do when faced with such a suicidal challenge (i.e. big Viking army against me and four toddlers) - ran away, leaving the vikings to complain to a local news team about how they'd come all the way from Norway only to discover that the opposition whom they'd been looking forward to engaging with in a gallant battle to the death had a combined age of 14.



    All in all, it was a jolly good day out, despite the fact that the streets of York were filled with people who really should have grown out of that stage about 40 years ago. One wonders what their homes are like, whether they force their children to eat raw bison meat or whatever it was that Viking's ate. We actually stumbled across a "Warrior Market" in the old town hall; the place was packed with warriors selling all sorts of things, from huge great horns (to make battle cries with) to leather underwear, whole suits of chainmail to wee little handmade knives for skinning wild animals. One would think it quite amusing to find one or two stalls selling Viking nik-naks (no, I don't mean out-of-date crisps), but to find so many people involved in what seemed like a thriving trade - well, it came as a bit of a shock to know that this sort of undercurrent exists in British Society. It got me thinking, How many of my friends are secret Vikings? I know some of them have a tendency to wear rather ridiculous cats ears - an anime thing I think XD XD (oooohhhhh miow!!) - but maybe, just maybe, they also wear chainmail to class...?

    Something for us all to think about, I'm sure you'll agree.

    Percy


    I'm sure that Thomas and all his friends are on something. I mean, whenever you see them, they have the same innane fixed grin on their faces - as demonstrated here by Percy whom I bumped into at the weekend. I bet they don't even flinch when they hit a bluetit at 30mph on their branch line.

    Mind you, if I was to be constantly told what to do by a Fat Controller who was clearly made out of plastic I think I'd need some strong narcotics to stop me going completely off the rails.

    Monday, February 27, 2006

    Back Up

    Apologies for the short outage folks. Still, we're back online, and I added another 7 posts whilst the line was down ...oh, and 191 photos have appeared in this month's album, which is in the usual place (they're yet to be labelled though, so just use your imagination!)

    tarra!

    Sunday, February 26, 2006

    I went on a Shinkansen yesterday!

    Ok, so considering that Joseph Tame is very much Japan-orientated, this should not come as much of surprise.

    Except that I'm in the UK.

    Ahh, natsukashii. This Bullet Train may have been an old model (no longer in service in Japan), but still, it did feel rather real in a funny way.

    Amazing what you come across when you go in search of vikings.

    (Here, *Cough* does something that very few Japanese have done - touches the nose of a Shinkansen!!)



    [what was even more surprising than finding the Shinkansen was finding a photo of Yokohama station in 1964. It's basically in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rice paddies!! Quite unlike the huge city that it serves today.]

    Orange on Black and White

    Did they see the irony?

    Gold for Japan

    Day after day the news updates poured in, of more failures by Japan's Winter Olympic team to get any medals.

    Until Thursday, when Shizuka Arakawa took Gold in Figure Skating.

    What I'm concerned with though is how on Earth she got from this position, - horizontal in mid-air - back to vertical on ice?

    Ah, just another of life's great mysteries.

    It's grim up North

    Travelling by train in the North, you can't go more than a few miles before stumbling upon one of these polluting beauties. No less than 3 on the short strech between Sheffield and York.

    Horse C*ck

    As regular Mumblers will know, the most common search term entered into Google that results in my site being displayed is "Horse Cock". Why, I have no idea, for this was happening long before my story of the Horse that stands proudly at the entrance to the famed Dinosaur "Don't Go There" Park of North Devon.

    Well, I am resigned to TGWs fate as being the No.1 place where true fans of plastic beastiality came come for satisfaction - if you can't beat 'em, join em.

    So here I present the second addition to my collection of life-size plastic horse appendages, as seen at the National Railway Museum in York.

    That's the other thing that gets me - why on Earth do these creatures end up in places like dinosaur parks and railway museums, and not city farms that are a bit pushed for space?

    WARNING! Only click on this link if you are over 18.

    As you can see, Patrick the Plastic horse was more than a little surprised when I directed my cybershot at his naughty bits.

    Why?

    The is only one question that needs to be asked of this Estate Agent - WHY?

    Surely you could have thought of another name for your business, rather than using the unfortunate title that you were born with.

    I mean, it's bad enough having a name like that anyway, you know, when making an oppointment for the dentist over the phone etc, (yes, C - R - Abut to actually use it as the name for your buisiness and therefore have it prominently displayed right across the city...

    Friday, February 24, 2006

    Fan Mail

    You may recall that Last October I received a love letter, from a stranger, named Tony.

    That was not the first time that that had happened. You see, I write for an Australian magazine, not a real magazine, just a pretend one. It has a print run of about 7000, and is sent to members of a certain organisation all around the world. Anyway, as a result of the inclusion of my tales from the road, I do get a fair bit of post, including quite a few propositions.

    Today's proposal was a little different from the usual, in that it wasn't from a man. It was even more unusual in that the woman who penned the letter is, it must be said, rather attractive.

    I give you, Miss. H.



    What's even more bizarre, is that although Miss. H's letter has come from Ghana, she did her degree not 10 minutes walk from where I am now sitting.

    My favourite section is the bit that reads,

    "Are married or marrried before? Do you have a girl loves? I am single, I am only praying that I meet Mr Wright."

    I assume here she means Mr. Right, and not Steve Wright, the balding moustache-wielding BBC Radio 2 Disc-jockey.

    "I must admit you are very handsome, so I saw your in the Australian magazine".

    ...hmmm

    Of course, as we all know, she is 5 months too late, as last September I was hunted down by *Cough* who flew all the way from Tokyo just to get her hands on me.

    However, had *Cough* not come along, what would my response to Miss. H. have been? Well, initial phwarings out of the way I would have inspected the photos closely to see if they revealed anything more about her breasts personality.

    Ah, yes, there we have it, 1st sign that we would not be compatible:


    Yes, huge earings. We all know that you can never trust a woman with big dangly earings, as they usually contain radio transmitters that are linked to the CIA's HQ. Clearly, a spy.

    Looking a little closer at teh 1st photo above and ... ah yes, tell-tale sign...

    The nail extensions. Ooohh there's nothing in this world that drives me into a frantic where-are-my-scissors frenzy more than ridiulously long nail extensions. Utterly impracticle. How the hell is she supposed to do the washing up after I've eaten with those great paddles glued to the ends of her fingers?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Miss. H. is a lovely girl, just not quite my type.

    I'll pop her in my big black file, along with Tony and that chap in the Phillipines who tried to seduce me with the legendary line,

    "On a personal level, I am certified male, endowment 6 cut bottom".

    tarra

    Thursday, February 23, 2006

    Growth


    As I sit here, eating my muesli and gazing at our hyacinth (a bulbous herb formerly placed in the lily family Liliaceae but now regarded as the type genus of the separate family Hyacinthaceae), I wonder how on Earth it has managed to produce so much matter in the space of just 5 days.

    When we bought it last Saturday (whilst attempting to find the Ecclesall Road Blockbuster branch, which succeeded in elluding us), it was but a bulb with a wee little green bit sticking out the top. Now looking at it in all its grand erectness! It is so large it can no longer support it's own weight! How can it possibly produce all that green / pink matter from next-to-nothing?

    The bulb hasn't shrunk.
    The soil level hasn't gone down.
    Ok, so it has drunk quite a bit (we're talking water here, not alcohol), but are you telling me that that bulb has the power to turn water into a flower? (No offence Jesus, but I'm afraid that beats your water-to-wine trick; I mean, well, wine resembles water pretty closely apart from the colour, but a hyacinth flower? You couldn't exactly use that to wash your car windscreen). (not that you'd be using wine to do that either, unless you live in Chelsea, maybe.)

    Hmm, a question to ponder over on my way to school. Posted by Picasa

    Pear-shaped

    What a bloomin awful afternoon it's turned out to be.

    Started off with an email from someone regarding an email I'd sent a few days back, which had contained one line which I must admit, looking back, was a little insensitive. Didn't really think about it at the time. Feel terrible now, have apologised. but nonetheless, I hate causing offense.

    The theme was continued as a classmate had a bit of a go at me after I'd tried to offer them a little advice re. how to survive the course. They were clearly not impressed, and took it the wrong way. Their reaction was a little below the belt I felt - and this all took place on a public forum which is subscribed to by most students in the department!

    This has all left me feeling rather wobbly.

    Soap Dilemma

    I just don't know which half of the soap to use now.

    Should I use the smaller half, to get rid of it quickly and make the sink look neater, or should I use the bigger half to get it down to the same size as the smaller half, thus restoring balance and harmony?

    Suggestions on a postcard to the usual address.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Change of plan

    Manchester is postponed for a week - we're off to York to go and watch the Vikings do battle instead!! I've always wanted to go and see that sort of thing, ever since I was a wee young-un, Hurray!

    Gathering of the Forces
    1.30 - 2.00pm, Museum Gardens by the Yorkshire Museum
    The Viking army assemble to march on the enemy.
    In conjunction with York Museums Trust

    March to Battle
    2.00pm, start from Museum Gardens, then on to Parliament Street, Coppergate, Eye of York
    Join the warriors as they march through the city centre to face their foe.

    Festival Battle Spectacular!
    Clash of Weapons
    2.30pm, Eye of York, by Clifford's Tower
    Local forces opposing the marriage of King Sihtric of Dublin to Edith, sister of Athelstan, rise up against the king's forces in bloody battle. Who will win the day? Witness the glitter of sword and spear in our afternoon battle.

    Big Bladder

    You know, I swear the guy living above me has a bladder the size of a 5 litre petrol can. Everytime he goes to the loo he pees for ages and ages, I can hear his wee hit the water. I'm assuming it's a guy, but I suppose it could be a girl who for some reason likes to pee standing up on the loo seat. Bit messy though, dribbles down the legs etc. Not that I'd know, being a guy and all that.

    I suppose this gives me a good excuse to once again put in a link to my favourite ever flash movie.

    Toilets in Japan have come on quite a way since then. Modern ones come complete with slots for SD memory sticks, so you can upload your favourite music.

    "Let's Enjoy Poo to the Music" as they would probably say if their ads were translated into Engrish...

    SIMs and Soap

    I've spent a fortune on photocopies this week. Let's hope it pays off when in August I get the results for the essay I haven't yet written. I've also scanned a few billion books to save precious pennies, hurray for Optical Character Recognition software I say!

    It's been quite an odd first couple of weeks back at uni. Rather a lot of politics for my liking, and complaining too. And demands for attention from people, so many demands in fact that at the weekend I make the dramatic decision to change my mobile number. Ok, so strictly speaking that's not quite true. The fact is I had another SIM card lying around, dating from the 18th century when I had my first breezeblock-sized vibrating keypad with a scaffold pole sticking out the top of it. I would just turn my phone off, but then I wouldn't be able to gaze longinly at the screen's 'desktop' picture of *cough* looking rather cute. So yes, come Thursday, 12pm when my final class of the week is over, it's out with one SIM and in with the other. I've also re-recorded my answerphone message telling ppl not to leave messages 'because it's broken'. Which of course it isn't.... Hah!!

    I broke a hinge on my darling laptop last week, what a poo. The screen still stays up by itself, but only if it's at an angle of exactly 90 degrees from the keyboard. Grrr. Akihabara Here I Come.

    *Cough* and I are doing well. In a bid to balance the ever-present demands of study and a desire for 'our time' we have instigated a new plan of action. This involes *Cough* only staying here at weekends (as opposed to about 6 nights a week), and Saturdays as our day when we go and do something exciting together. I haven't really been anywhere in the North of England (despite having lived here for 1/4 of my life) , and of course, nor has *Cough*, so every Saturday we're going to go somewhere and explore. This Saturday it's Manchester I think. There's a damn sexy skyscraper going up there, and I just have to get some photos. Also, I'm kind of hoping to find out how they are going to get the cranes down - a question that has troubled me for three years. No, I'm not sure what *Cough* sees in me either.

    The bar of soap by my sink split in two today. It's a sad moment when that happens. You know, you sense it a day or two before it actually occurs. You see your little bar weaken every time you wash your hands, until one day, no matter how tenderly you turn it in your moist palm, it can bear the tension no more, and what was a slight crack becomes a searing tear through its heart, leaving two annoyingly small bits. I get attached to my bars of soap. I can remember exactly how many I've had since I moved in here (3). Mind you, I can't recall how many I got through in my last house. Toothepaste is the same. Not that I actually wash myself with toothpaste, that would be a bit silly, and quite costly too.

    My flatmates, the two young-uns, have started leaving our ground-floor french-windows open. The ones that open directly onto the street. It is difficult to comprehend how they could be so stupid. Then one remembers that they go to Sheffield Hallam Uni (the old polytechnic)... I've put a little notice up that requests, in very polite language, that they not be so bloody idiotic. If anyone was to climb over the little barrier between the pavement and the doors, and nicked my suihanki (rice cooker), magimix (mixer) or Avichan (avocado plant) I would be mightily peeved. It's bad enough that they subject the rest of us to regular bouts of Rubbish & B*llox (R&B) and Mariah Carey's screeching.

    Oh dear. It seems they are determined to piss me off tonight. Not only has "I will always Love You" come back on the virtual intercom, but now they are running up and down the corridor with one of those foul chemical-packed aerosol air-freshener things.

    Kids eh, who'd have em?

    Ok, well grumpy grandpa best get on with some work now. Tattaa!

    Monday, February 20, 2006

    Cynicism

    I used to have a very idealistic view of Japan.

    A 'unique' homogeneous society, with all working together for a common good. Low crime rates. A 'Peace Constitution'. A love of cherry blossoms and all things Zen. The most sexy women in the world.

    Astonishing how knowledge aquired through university has changed all that. Cynicism now rules the roost. The likes of Sugimoto, van Wolferen, Kerr and McCormack have seen my cherry-blossom tainted spectacles thrown to the granite floor and ground into a thousand pieces.

    I've been reading up on the Constitution this weekend. Oooh it makes me hopping mad the way politics and self-interest on the part of those with power has robbed the people of any autonomy. I'm not the only one that feels like this though, as is evident in this superb recasting of the Constitution, brought to us by the group known as 'Smash the Security Treaty'. It is painful to read, when one finds that one's assessment of reality matches it word for word.

    The Constitution of Japan - the right answers

    Chapter 1 The Emperor

    Article 1
    The Emperor shall be the symbol of the occupation of Japan and of the stupidity of the Japanese people, deriving his position from the orders of the Occupation Forces.

    Article 2
    The Imperial Throne shall be dynastic in accordance with the principle of human inequality necessary to monopoly enterprise. This principle is spelt out in the Imperial House Law passed by intimidation in the Diet.

    Article 3
    By his various mumbo-jumbo-like rites and rituals, the Emperor shall give the appearance of legitimacy to whatever is laid down by the body of officials known as the Cabinet. This shall be known as the conduct of matters of state. The Cabinet shall bear the responsibility for these rites and rituals. [Abridged]

    Chapter 2 Choice of war

    Article 9
    Aspiring sincerely to an international order based on what is determined by the United States government to be just, the Japanese people shall only choose war as the sovereign right of the nation, or the threat or use of force, in accordance with the orders of the United States of America.

    In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will be maintained, and they will be called Self-Defense Forces. The right of belligerency of the state shall be subordinate to the government of the United States of America.

    The organization and duties of the Self-Defense Forces shall be settled by law, and since the role of the Self-Defense Forces is always to be determined in accordance with the wishes of the government of the United States of America, no further provision about it is made in this constitution.

    Chapter 3 Rights and duties of the people

    Article 10
    All people are divided into Japanese and non-Japanese. The conditions for being Japanese are to be determined by law.

    Article 11
    Japanese people shall enjoy all basic human rights in so far as they do not interfere with the profit-making of monopoly enterprises or with the conduct of government. This provision does not apply to non-Japanese. [Abridged]

    Article 13
    All non-Japanese shall not be respected as individuals. So far as their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are concerned, no legal or other provision shall be made for them save as set out in the Imperial Household Law.

    Article 14
    All non-Japanese people shall be discriminated against in political, economic and social relations in accordance with race, creed, sex, social status or family origin or nationality.

    As prescribed by the Imperial Household Law, a system of aristocracy, to be called 'imperial clan' (kozoku) will be established. Its members shall enjoy the privileges accompanying awards of honour, decoration or distinction. These aristocratic privileges shall be inherited and enjoyed as a permanent right which may not be taken away. [Abridged]

    Article 18
    Under the rank and status system, some people will have to be confined as slaves. As distinct from punishment for crime, the drudgery of over-time work and commuting hell shall not be regarded as counter to anyone's will.

    Article 19
    Freedom of thought and conscience shall be recognized within those limits determined by public officials. '

    Article 20
    Religion based on the rites and rituals performed by the Emperor is compulsory and it shall be given precedence by government. Other religions are free in so far as they do not conflict with this.

    Everybody, irrespective of their religion, must participate in the rites of the above religion, i.e. the ceremonies performed by the Emperor, the raising of the 'Hinomaru flag and kneeling before it, the singing in chorus of the 'Kimigayo' anthem in praise of the Emperor. The state and its organs must take appropriate steps to ensure that the people are aware of these duties.

    Article 21
    All assembly and organization, and all expression of opinion or publication that has been authorized by the authorities shall be free.
    All acts of censorship shall be known henceforth only as editing, and editing shall be required. The freedom of public officials to tap people's telephones shall be guaranteed.

    Article 26
    All people shall have the right to receive an unequal education in accordance with their financial means.


    (p.s. Cynicism has yet to take a hold regarding the last of the few idealistic images I referred to at the beginning of this article)

    Me and My Monkey

    Got so much homework to do today.

    So, of course when I thought about making a video comprising of the Black and White shots of Me and my Monkey taken earlier this month I knew that I had to do it NOW, it just couldn't wait.

    It's not very good, but I like it. 1mb, Windows Media Video format, available here

    When posting it to my server I stumbled across an old site I started to make a few years back. My one and only attempt at making a Flash movie. Admire / laugh at my handywork here

    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Feeling old(er)

    It does kind of piss me off that physically, I feel older than my class mates. They seem to be able to do things like pull all-nighters on a regular basis when required. If I was to do that I'd be written off for the next few days.

    Likewise, with things like weed. Years ago, when I was a lad and living in an isolated cow shed in the alps I used to be able to fuction perfectly ok if I smoked a joint when I first woke up, another for elevenses, a third mid-afternoon and a few at bedtime. Now, if I was to smoke even the smallest bit of wacky backy I'd need a week to recover.

    I guess this is the one disadvantage of being a 'mature' uni student. You just can't afford to abuse your body as you used to.

    Thinking of drugs, you know, I'm surprised at how few there are around here. I mean, in 1 1/2 years at uni I've never come across any mention of anything like Ecstasy etc. Weed, yes, one of my ex-classmates did occasionally have a toke, but apart from him I don't know anyone on my course or otherwise who indulges. Maybe it's the circles I move in.

    Couldn't be more different from 6th Form College where more time was spent under that big Chestnut tree in Churchill gardens than in the classroom.

    Japan Day, Valentines Day

    Hello hello. Hmm so much to say, it's almost enough to warrant a podcast. Sadly I can't afford the bandwidth, so we'll have to make do with HTML.

    Well, what a week or two it's been. Absolutely mad. Just been soooo busy. This has primarily been due to last Sunday's Japan Day, the biggest event yet that Sheffield Uni's Japan Society has put on. And the biggest event that it will ever put on if it has any sense. It all started when the Japanese Cultural Secretary visited last year. He took Will and I out for Sushi, and encouraged us to put on a Japanese extravaganza – promising the support of the embassy. Come last Sunday, we found that this support manifested itself in the form of a few bits of plastic sushi and a photo of a bullet train.

    I would tell you about the day in Mumble style, but I'm a wee bit pushed for time, so instead here's my description PR stylee, what I wrote for someone else:

    In the summer of 2005, the Japanese Cultural Secretary from the Embassy of Japan in the UK, Mr. Otsuka, made a trip to Sheffield to meet the committee behind Sheffield University's Japan Society. As a result of this, in October 2005 a team was formed, consisting of Japanese exchange students and resident members of the Japan Society. Their goal: to create an event through which elements of Japanese culture could be brought to the UK, and so further understanding between the two nations. Thus Japan Day 2006 – 'Breaking the Barriers' - was born.

    On February 12th hundreds of people flocked through the doors of the University's Octagon Centre to participate in the cultural festival. Those attending had come from far and wide; in addition to staff, students and local residents, members of Japan-related organisations from York, Essex, Brighton and Northern Ireland made the trip to join in the fun. There was even one man present who had come all the way from Australia - just for Japan Day!

    The event kicked off (literally!) with a great demonstration by a university-based Karate club, which was then followed by a dramatic set by the internationally-recognised Japanese percussionist Joji Hirota and his Taiko troupe. The sheer power of the drums was quite staggering, whilst the energy and dexterity of the drummers themselves ensured that it was a performance that would not be forgotten. The energy whipped up by Joji's drumming was then seized upon by the Japan Day Committee themselves, in a fantastic fast-paced rendition of the Soran-Bushi dance, set to the music of a traditional fishing-song from Northern Japan. A break for lunch (in the form of a selection of Japanese foods including Sushi and Curry Rice) was followed by a talk-show with the Japanese Entrepreneur Ayumu Takahashi, author of numerous bestselling books and founder of Sanctuary Publishing, who had flown over from Okinawa in order to participate in Japan Day. During the talk-show he revealed how he had achieved his remarkable success in life, primarily through ‘breaking the barriers' of constrictive social norms.

    Following his talk, people were able to sample aspects of Japanese culture such as Tea Ceremony, Origami, 'GO' and Anime, and could also try on a traditional Japanese kimono. The day was then brought to a close by a very energetic set by AXIA, a band made up of Sheffield University Students past and present, performing Japanese songs.

    Overall, Japan Day 2006, an event made possible by the kind support of Sheffield University and local businesses, was an outstanding success, with all profits being donated to two charities located in Japan and Sheffield.



    Hmm, yes. I guess it really was a success, especially in turns of turnout. The place was packed, with a load of people having to sit on the floor as all seats were taken, and nothing went wrong in a truly spectacular manner. The highlight for me was Joji Hirota, the Taiko drummer and his band. Bloomin' marvelous. I really love Taiko, and have done ever since my first taste of it in a secondary school gym in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Hokkaido in the winter of 2000. I think the most stunning performance I've witnessed was that by Kodo, the professional squad from Japan, who were playing at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank. The did things with drums you'd never have thought possible. Re. Joji's group though, it was Kumiko, a multi-platinum award-winning drummer whose banging technique I was most impressed with. I don't think I've ever seen anyone move so fast - and such an incredible sense of rhythm. Huge muscles too. And a rather crazed look on her face. Quite scary actually.





    The part that brought the biggest smile to my face was when the Japan Day Committee performed Soran-bushi, a dance, to a tune that used to be sung by fishermen in Northern Japan when offloading their catch to keep their eyes open and spirits up. I was so damn impressed by my friends, truly a magnificent performance, which I guess is to be expected considering the endless hours of practice they'd put in. (Note that I am absent from the photo. I thought it best to save the audience the agony of watching a seamless performance being ruined by some monkey in the back row with his timing all screwed up – if you have seen the video of last year's Japan Soc production of Romeo and Juliet you will know what I mean).

    In fact, I took very little part in preparing for Japan Day. This was a deliberate, selfish ploy on my part to avoid the bucket-loads of stress that I would have been drenched in along the way had I chosen to play an active part. I find it so hard to leave things to others – and with Japan Day being such a big event, with a budget of thousands and a ridiculously small timeframe within which to prepare, I knew that were I to get involved it would mean major stress, with a likelihood of a return of my seizures – something I want to avoid at all costs. Well, it paid off, and I managed to remain detached from the whole preparation process, other than a day spent making sushi, which was really quite relaxing, thanks mainly to the fact that we had a fantastic team of rollers behind us and plenty of experience of sushi-mass production. In fact, the stress-management strategy worked so well that I felt able to safely reduce my dosage of Epilim to 800mg daily – a great achievement.

    Anyway anyway, I'm glad it's all out of the way now, so I can concentrate on surviving the last 10 weeks of my 2nd year at uni.

    Took part in a departmental open day today. I enjoy doing the ‘meet a real live student” bit, gives me an opportunity to waffle in front of a crowd about something I love. I hope I and my two course-mates didn't put them all off by stressing just how hard the course is. I don't think we mentioned 70% when talking about the high drop-out rate. More failures/ drop-outs this past week. Of course the best bit was the free Kit-Kats.

    Valentines Day


    It's been a while since I was in a ‘proper' relationship on Valentine's Day. I have tended to associate it with the feelings I had a few years back when standing alone at the top of the Eiffel Tower in the City of Love, on that very special day. Alone, that is, except for all for the snogging couples around me, B*tsrads.

    This year though it was all very different. Preparations had been made, with *cough* booked to turn up on my doorstep at 7pm for the show that was to begin at 7.30pm in Sheffield's recently refurbished City Hall Theatre. Gosh, she did look rather delicious. I'd never seen her in a dress before (she tends to be in her pyjamas most of the time…). Mmmm yummy scrumptious. Even more yummy scrumptious though was the soft-choco that she'd made for me from 100% organic ingredients, including a whole huge bar of lush G&B Maya Gold. I've never been the recipient of what I understand is this traditional gift, and was most touched.

    The happy couple then left the student flats and tripped merrily down the road to the Theatre, where we joined about 1000 other lovies for what was billed to be a fandabulous musical extravaganza: The Magic of the Musicals, a non-stop rollercoaster ride through all the greatest classics, from Grease to Evita, Mary Poppins to Les Miserable.

    The first sign that maybe this had been a mistake was the fact that there was not a single person in sight who was born post-Jurassic age. Nevermind, we thought, it's not the audience that matters, it's the show.


    Unfortunately, things got off to a bad start, when the MC, Robert Meadmore, walked on. Although I'd never heard of him, he is apparently quite famous. The reason I now know this is that he told us, several times during the show, that he released his first album late last year, and it has been at No.2 in the classical charts ever since. He then waited for applause – not the best way to ingratiate oneself towards an audience. I think his existence merits the resurrection of the word ‘twat'.

    Thankfully the following two hours did not consist purely of his crooning. No, we were saved by Marti Webb (who I had actually heard of), who really did impress me. Shame about the burglar alarm going off in the middle of her beautiful rendition of ‘Don't Cry for me Argentina'. Comedy was added by Wayne Sleep, a little titch of a man who had an obsession with spinning around in circles at the speed of light whilst his head stayed perfectly still. Quite how he managed it I don't know. It was funny though, almost at any available opportunity he'd come trotting on and start spinning, as if it was his party trick. Damn good tap-dancer too though, and singer.

    Further comedy was added by some completely insane woman in row S, who kept on screeching at inopportune minutes. Quite why she wasn't chucked out I don't know.

    I must admit, I did enjoy it in the end, as did *cough*, although it wasn't quite what we were expecting. And of course, I was with my cutey, who continued to be my cutey when we got home, and had an early night. Tee hee RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaa Woof woof



    xxx

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    sunny day

    It's a lovely clear, sunny day today, and I feel all nervously positive!
    WIGGY!

    3 days

    ...that's how long it took for the full horror of the new semester to sink in.

    A little superficial analysis of my feelings of utter arggh reveal that of the three modules that I am taking, it is the language one that is making me feel like I'm about to run off a huge unseen-until-it's-too-late cliff. Every language class I go into results in me coming out feeling even more demorialised. I sit there, almost frozen with fear. I feel like my written and spoken Japanese has nose-dived - my exam results will no doubt reflect this, at least as far as language goes.

    Thankfully, I didn't do too badly in my other two subjects. Thus, overall for the first semester, we're looking at a high 2:2. Me thinks that with focus this will result in a low 2:1 overall for my second year. A second year which until recently I believed counted for a full 50% of my degree - I now understand that this will not necessarily be the case, and that the 4th year may be weighted more heavily. I've yet to check out whether this really is the case, but what with the history of our year being guinea-pigs for all other new teaching methods etc I wouldn't be at all surprised if that was the case. It would be good news I suppose, provided I did well in the 4th year!

    [update: this is the case, but not for students already in the system, like us]

    But of course, NONE OF THIS MATTERS! So bloody what if I don't get a first, or even a 2:1. I felt reassured today when a lecturer whom I have a great deal of respect for told me he only got a 2:2 for his first degree... It really doesn't matter. As long as I pass, that's all that matters. That's all the Japanese government is interested in.

    The main point of all this uni malarky is NOT the grade at the end, it's the experience, it's all the stuff I learn, it's the people I meet and the resulting nights of passionate sex. So, Mr. Joseph, don't panic. Just focus on what needs to be done and do it. Don't spend the whole day running around in an attempt to avoid study (I even went as far as Meadowhall shopping mall a.k.a. Meadowhell today to avoid the kanji).

    I do find it tough to adjust to a new set of realistic goals. I think it's self-imposed pressure, resulting from a feeling that I'm letting my language tutors down that is mainly to blame. Ah! Curse my consideration for their feelings!

    Japan Day has been another big stress - even though I haven't really been involved in the preperation (my sincere thanks to Will for his thoughtfulness). The thing is, 10 members of staff at SEAS (my department at UNI) have now requested tickets from me, which has led me to feel personally responsible for them enjoying themselves! Ridiculous. A major concern is that I feel that one particular 'attraction' on the day really shouldn't be happening, it's the wrong environment... and I can see it chasing people away. Arghh the guilt... It was at times like this that I reached for the bottle last year. This year I have my cutey instead, who gives me tremendous support (visits to the health centre to pick up packs of free condoms outnumber the alcoholic units I've consumed this year :-)

    (the full-size version of this contact-sheet is 566k, so only click it if you have Broadband, or don't mind waiting 3 years for it to download)

    A 1mb wmv video version of these photos of Me and My Monkey is available here



    Extracts from the above contact sheet may appear from time to time here on TDM, and they'll all be uploaded to this month's album when I get a chance. I think the first photo I'd like to highlight is quite astounding, and is a warning to me not to get involved in a kick-boxing match with *cough*, unless I wanted all my teeth removed.



    Back to the uni business for a bit: This semester my Japanese Language module (one of three that I'm taking, the other two being lecture centered, focusing on elements of contemporary Japanese society etc, taught by two lecturers who could not be more different. One of them, if in tablet rather than human form, could market himself as a powerful drug to help you sleep. The other one is, comparitively speaking, just out of nappies and gives very stimulating classes - handy considering they are timetabled for late afternoon, just that time of day when I start to feel dozy. Incidentally, in the event that he happens to read the above line about nappies, as I am aware that he has in the past spent some of his precious paid time browsing these pages (I tell you, lecturing is the way to go, all those hours spent twiddling your thumbs in your little private office, gazing at your Geocaching wallpaper...), I hope he doesn't object and deduct ten points from my presentation score.)

    oh, I was just starting a sentence wasn't I when those brackets got in the way. Right, take II.

    Back to the uni business for a bit: This semester my Japanese Language module is divided into four. Two translation classes, one grammar / website creation class (I kid you not, keep an eye on http://www.tamegoeswild.com/j for updates) and one devoted to a grand project involving the interviewing of real live Japanese people and then the real life humiliation of being filmed giving a presentation on the results of one's research. To make it extra-excrutiatingly awful, the camera that will be used will be about the size of the Hubble space telescope. Thing is, our department is broke. The last time any new equipment was bought (a bog-roll dispenser in the ladies toilet) they had to hold a cake sale to cover the costs. Thus, the camera used to film presentations dates from the early Roman era, and would look more at home in that classic 1970s series The Land of the Giants than in a 21st century language department.

    Thankfully the task is being made slightly less scary by the fact that I am paired with someone who is equally timid when it comes to speaking Japanese. I was a bit nervous of being made to feel obliged to pair up with someone whom although I like a great deal, I have come to fear speaking to in Japanese because of recent setbacks.

    So you see, I seem to have embraced a whole host of worries and concerns, none of which are really being forced upon me by anyone other than my naughty conscience. I mean, crikey, if I look back at last semester, I was in a far worse situation, especially in early December. Yet I survived, in fact I got very good results for two out of three subjects. Balls to the stress I say!

    Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!

    and stop updating your website, and read that book that has to be back in the library by tomorrow morning!!!

    xxx joseph

    Saturday, February 04, 2006

    Back already?

    Yes, The Daily Mumble is back here, at http://www.tamegoeswild.com/thedailymumble/index.htm after an unsuccessful one-month trial on some server owned by Blogger.com, that I think must have been clockwork, or running on rechargeable batteries that had a habit of going flat every five minutes.

    The rather bizarre thing is, is that I can't access the old version now I've chosen to move TDM back here - I'm locked out. Thus, no notice of the move, no ability to delete it even. It's stuck there, for life, along with another ex-blogger site of mine. But we won't go into that. Nooooooooo. Instead, we'll have some pretty little wooden barrels that are the cargo of a wee little toy truck on the bookshelf behind me.

    So, yes, sorry for all the fuss. Believe me though, it's a lot more hassle for me having to retype the whole month than for you, updating your bookmarks with a couple of clicks.

    Anyway anyway, I have to up in 6 hours, and awake enough to handle a chainsaw without chopping my leg off. So I'd better go to bed.

    Night Night!!

    Central Heating


    As seen by my foot.

    intentions

    It's a good job I don't get pissed off very easily. Because I have just spent Bl**DY 5 hours recording a BL**DY DVD that, having checked it just now, I discover to be so pixalated it may as well have come from the Land of the Pixies.

    Usually my super-sexy drive can churn out a pristine disk in 15 minutes, but for some reason my computer is not too keen on the format used by the VCR to DVD recorder machine thing that I'm using to digitise various personal tapes. Thus, making a copy of my sister's wedding vid is proving somewhat problematic.

    Oh well. I shall wield a chainsaw tomorrow to relieve my angst.

    One of the videos I've attempted to transfer to DVD was that of my first ever appearance on Japanese TV, back in 2000. It was the 6 O'clock news in Kyoto, and this camera crew was interviewing people in a shopping mall, asking them what they thought of the maple leaves in the local park.

    I'd forgotten quite how stupid I can look on TV. I think in the whole 5 seconds I was on for I managed to embarrass myself (by saying "Kirei, kirei, shashin, shashin" - beautiful, beautiful, photo, photo, whilst mimicking someone taking photos) almost as much as I did in that ghastly BBC program Body Hits, of which I also caught a fleeting glance when transferring it to DVD the other day. I can't believe I agreed to do the program. And I especially can't believe I agreed to hand over my home videos, including that notorious shot in the toilet of a Boeing 747, 55,000 feet over Siberia. I guess I can just be grateful that it is very unlikely to ever be shown again, having reached the end of its shelf life (six broadcasts I believe, and once in Australia). Oh, it's quite hideous.

    Anyway, enough about that.

    I'm feeling pretty nervous about next semester. Thing is, I did so appallingly badly in my exams that my image of myself at uni has been shattered. I mean, ever since I went back into education I've done really well. I even finished my ACCESS course a month before lectures ended, and got the best possible result. Last year at uni I got a First, firsts for my essays, firsts for my exams, firsts for my coursework.

    And now, I find myself struggling to even get 40%! I've been looking at what's expected of us next semester, and it scares me a lot. I read one of the four bits of the required reading for Contemporary Japanese Society, and it may as well have been written in Double Dutch.

    I know ultimately it doesn't matter. No-one is really bothered whether or not you got a First or a 2:1 or a 2:2 after you graduate, but, well, the thing is I had this idea that I'd come out the other end having done really well.

    Hmm. I really will try very hard this semester to do well. I must be more assertive and not do so much for Japan Society. I know it's important to have fun at uni as well, but the thing is that I find that if I do badly academically then that makes me feel pretty despondent about the whole uni thing. I feel like I've let my lecturers down.

    My timetable looks ok. This is provisional ...I hope there's no changes, then I'll have Friday's off! in the library all day without interruption by lectures!



    I tried to get a debit card from my bank tonight. I was told I'd have to wait another 5 years! That's the first time I've been told explicitly that my bankruptcy will stay on my record for 7 years, and thus I won't be able to get any kind of credit until 2011. Ooh er, that sounds a bit futuristic. Mind you, this doesn't bother me in the slightest, as I'll be in Japan most of the time, and can of course get credit over there should I need it. Not for the sake of having credit - just for the convenience of having a card. It's a bit of a pain having to call mum everytime I need to buy a train ticket online.

    I'm really looking forward to going back to Japan next this year. Not sure about living arrangements yet, but I really hope that *cough* and I can be under the same roof. And I'm so glad that my friend Tom is there, I do miss him. I guess Stu San will still be around, no doubt working like a maniac as usual.

    I like living in Japan, as it still has the feeling of being 'frontier territory', in that the systems that are in place there are so not geared towards foreigners that every second of life is that little bit more of a challenge. Tokyo has a real hold on me. The backstreets of Kichijoji, the walk to John John's from the station, often with a huge rucksack. The construction of the new bus station at Shinjuku South. The food, oh, the foood...

    I suppose I should go to bed now.

    Friday, February 03, 2006

    Work well with others

    Finger Update

    Well, the good news is that it doesn't really hurt.

    However, I am in a bit of a quandry. You see, I can't decide whether or not to cut the flap of skin off. Is it aiding the healing process, or holding it back? What would you do in my situation? Suggestions on a postcard to the usual address please.

    These 3 photos demonstrate the various positions that my 'Flappy' as I affectionately call him, is capable of taking.





    In Other Finger News the sister finger on my left hand is feeling empathetic towards that on the right as my glove had a hole in, and I have been working clearing brambles all day. It was, actually, really rather enjoyable and very rewarding. I opened-up two previously intraversable (sp? 'can't be walked through') snickets in the depths of this rather large garden. I do worry about hitting toads with my rather powerful strimmer though. I know that there's a fair few about, under the leaf mould, and if I hit one it would no doubt become instantly polverised, with it's inards shooting straight into my face, the fluid passing through the mesh that protects me from flying stones and into my mouth. Urgh.

    In Non-Finger News this morning I was woken up by the sound of voices, those of the two oldies distinguished owners of the Welsh Garden Project where I work and reside in the holidays.

    After a few seconds of listening to their conversation in the hallway, I thought, "Oh no! They're speaking in white-on-black, not black-on-white! I can't understand a word they're saying!" Thing is, I remained convinced that that was the case for several minutes, until reality was able to wrench me from the clutches of post-sleep daziness.

    Well, I must get to work on this thorn-filled finger with a needle. Good job the two fingers I type with aren't affected eh?

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    Ouch


    I just crushed my finger between two big logs. That was clever. It bled a lot, and a huge flap of skin was left dangling.

    I felt very sick and light-headed. I valiently staggered back to the house from the other side of the garden, and located a bandage for it. Now it's all wrapped up and on the road to recovery.