TGW Home | Podcast | Photos | Travel Tales | Videos | About the Tame | Contact | Japanese |

 


The Daily Mumble has moved!

This is an archive copy only and will no longer be updated.

The new edition can be found at www.tamegoeswild.com/words. Please update your bookmarks.

The feed address has not changed - subscribe here if you're not subscribed already!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last day of the year: Looking forward to 2009 and beyond

We're back at *Twinkle*s parents for New Years Eve, as is the tradition when in Japan. This year I won't be drinking, following a disastrous incident last time when I, along with *Twinkle*s two sisters' British partners devoured a whole crate of beer between us - most of it went down my throat.

I feel it'll be a nice quiet affair this year, with lots of food and some typically silly Japanese TV.

Cycling with my wifey

*Twinkle* and I have had a good day relaxing together. Following an easy morning spent watching Indiana Jones and eating tangerines (whilst tucked under the kotastu - a heated table which sits atop a pit in the floor for putting your legs in), we headed out on the family bicycles to LakeTown, the biggest shopping mall I've ever seen in my entire life. This huge development is located in the middle of a bunch of rice paddies here in Saitama, and even has its own (brand new) railway station. It has about 500 shops, and thus a huge variety - on the ground floor after passing a load of fantastically original restaurants (Disneyland-style decor, but more authentic), you'll then find a fleet of shiney Toyota family saloons. There's a gardening section, tonnes of cutey kiddies clothing stores, two large department stores, a cinema, a gym, three Starbucks, and a row of solar panels perched on the edge of the roof (which also serves as a car park).

camouflage phone

Camouflage phone

I usually loathe shopping centres, and only ever went to MeadowHall (MeadowHell) in Sheffield in desperation when I was in need of a Mac Genius. But LakeTown surprised me. They've done a great job of creating a 'nice' space. It's actually fun to walk around the place, and it's so big that you can walk around looking at your iPhone without bumping into people. It has sexy interactive floor guides, and Universal Design Toilets.

The Universal Design Toilets
LakeTown Loos

What more could you ask for?

Chopsticks display

How about this for a chopsticks collection

I guess that's why they say it three times

We didn't go there to shop though - in fact all we picked up was five pairs of slippers for the family feet (it's blooming freezing at the mo). Instead, we spent several hours in a cafe making plans for the Tokyo Tame family's next 1, 3, 5 and 10 years. We discussed moving house (and changed our minds once again), when the children are to be born (I guess that'll be a guideline then), specific financial goals and more detailed goals regarding our careers. We also made promises and plans regarding use of free time.


For recharging your electric car


Electric charging station at LakeTown shopping mall, Saitama Japan

It's really exciting to think that we can, to a certain extent, shape our own futures. The value of goal setting and future-life planning is something that we both heartely believe in, but don't do as often as we could. This is the second year though that we've taken time out to make these 'big plans'. Whilst we didn't necessarily hit all of our targets for 2008, merely having them in mind throughout the year helped us make a lot of small decisions along the way (will this take us a little closer to our goals?).

Lucky bags on offer at LakeTown shops: Pay up to 15,000 yen (£60) for a bag, the contents of which are a mystery until after you've paid - hugely popular in Japan.

List of lucky New Year bags available at some of LakeTown's 500 outlets

We'll be printing our list out and hanging it somewhere where we often see it.

On the way home from LakeTown we were fortunate to get a great view of Mount Fuji, some 100+km to the South West of Koshigaya. It's a shame we weren't crossing that bridge a little earlier, but still, there was enough light remaining light to cause me to gasp and shout "Mount Fuji!" when I first looked to the West.

Mount Fuji from about 100km+ (this is what happens when you shoot in low light on ISO 1600 with a Nikon D40x!)
fuji_2336

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, December 26, 2008

Plans for 2009

Meet your teachers: George and I warm up for our telephone English lessons

George and I at work

Just one more day of work at the office remains this year. Whilst I usually work alone on Saturdays, taking calls from those students of mine who are unable to call during the week, tomorrow the rest of the office crew will join me. They'll be turning up in their casual clothes for the annual oosouji - cleanup - traditionally carried out at the end of the year in all homes and workplaces in Japan.

I've chosen to work much of my week off at a private school in order to scrape together the rest of the money needed for moving house - we've decided that we'll definitely be leaving our apartment in February. With our current place being very old and not insulated in any way we'd rather not stay here. Had there been no costs involved in staying, we'd put up with it, but with a contract renewal fee of 180,000 yen (approximately £1000) it just doesn't make sense. It's an absolute con, and encourages us further in our mission to become property owners (to create a passive income, and provide a comfortable place for people to stay when visiting Tokyo / temporarily homeless. It's partly inspired by dear John John who always had an open-door policy).

I'm really looking forward to my few days off work next week, as it means I can put some serious time and effort into working on the two web-based projects I'm feeling really fired up about. One is the online publishing company that we started last year, the other is a podcast which I've desperately wanted to create ever since I got back, but have been lacking in a podcast partner. I found the ideal person in the phone booth next to me at work. He's crazy. Crazy George.

I'd also like to redesign The Daily Mumble - move it over to Wordpress 2.7 - but that's going to have to wait. I'm seriously considering using some paid holiday to work on this and the other projects.

Next month will see planning / work commence on a new website (and hopefully podcast) for the company - an idea long discussed but never acted upon, until myself and crazy George got all hyped up it a couple of days ago. I'm excited about that. Another great opportunity to be creative, learn a lot, and have something to show for our efforts at the end of the day.

It also happens to be exactly what I have long-envisioned doing.

I'm getting real excited about 2009. I feel it's going to be a great year.

2008 has been a pretty spectacular though, personally speaking. I got married, graduated from uni, returned to Japan with a proper visa thus successfully completing a five year plan. I've started exercising regularly, I've got a fulfilling job, and earlier in the year I had some big successes in my work at the University of Sheffield.

I've continued to read, courtesy of Audible.co.uk.

I've also got my procrastination under control. This year, I learnt that procrastination can actually be used to increase one's productivity. Realising this, I actively sought to make my procrastination the good sort. This not only resulted in me being able to get a lot more done in the limited time I had, but also relieved me of the feelings of guilt and stress that tended to accompany my procrastination sessions.

I think finishing uni helped too...!

Looking to the year ahead, I aim to make real progress in bringing the projects I mentioned above to fruition, in addition to working more to support *Twinkle* with the further growth of our Amway business. I will avoid doing overtime at the office, but instead be very productive in my allotted hours there. I will also work to be a less grumpy husband - when I'm tired I sometimes turn into a big baby. *Twinkle* is very patient, but she shouldn't have to be.

I also plan to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and run a quarter marathon, an ekiden and a half marathon too. I want to run the Honolulu marathon in 2010.

I don't really have any goals in terms of ownership - it's experiences and personal development that matter, not owning 'things'. (Having said that, I would like a Macbook pro and a mid-range Nikon DSLR, but I think they'll have to wait until 2010).

I see the year ahead as being pretty intense, quite tiring, but with little stress - and a lot of fun and satisfaction. I see myself growing in confidence, being less concerned by the opinions of others, and more understanding of ways of communicating in these parts. I'll be continuing to work on living in alignment with what is 'right', and resisting attempted coups by my ego.

Hmmm, it's all pretty exciting really!

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, November 10, 2008

A peek inside our mansion

A few people have been asking to see our house - and today I finally got around to taking a few shots.

The view from the front door.

himonya house tour_0587

Our flat is basically comprised of two rooms: a kitchen / dining room, and a living / bedroom. There's also a tiny bathroom, and a separate loo, oh, and a balcony. The two rooms are divided by glass-panelled sliding doors, which we've only now started to close at night to keep the heat in the bedroom.

The table is an IKEA job, heroically carted back by my sister's-in-law's partner, Morris, when they they lived here. It's also a wedding gift, for which we are very grateful!

The kitchen is basically everything along the left-hand side of the room.

The kitchen in all it's glory.

himonya house tour_0576

I spent quite a long time re-organising all this. Improvements include the removal of heavy / lethal plates from the cupboards above the sink, which *Twinkle* had to stand on a chair in order to reach! It's now home to things like dish cloths, stores of spaghetti, and granny's best china.

On the left is the gas stove, which we only use when our main hotplate (the induction range, to the right of the sink) is otherwise engaged. The induction range also serves as rice cooker, kettle, and oven (in conjunction with a saucepan of course!) and costs far less to run than regular hotplates (I took some meter readings last year). Why they are not more common I don't know, such a fantastic technology. There's a couple of companies that make them - ours is Sharp, distributed by Amway.

I'm particularly happy with the rack to the left of the sink, which in this action shot is stacked with stuff. This is our third attempt at getting the draining board sorted, having experimented with non-purpose built metal racks we had around the place. The purchase of this £10 basket thing from our local supermarket dramatically changed my emotional relationship with the kitchen.

The gas heater above the sink is unfortunately common in Japan. With no proper flu outlet the sticker on it instructs you to always have the fan on when using it - people have been known to die from carbon monoxide poisoning from these things. Because of this, we never use it for hot water, and have turned off the gas supply. Instead it's just used for washing up with cold water (which for some reason doesn't bother me in the slightest. Now, using hot water for washing up strikes me as being a bit wasteful!).

To the right of the induction range is the food mixer and water filter, and below them six plastic baskets which serve as our pantry. Each one has a theme: Baking, liquids, packs of mysterious Japanese ingredients I don't understand, pasta etc, jams and hot drink supplies. To the right of that we have our sexy fridge, inherited from *Twinkle*s family. It now sports an Apple Sticker to help convince people it is cool.

himonya house tour_0580

The latest and final bit of furniture I purchased from the local department store was this wooden shelving unit. I'd realised that the space in front of the glass door was 'dead space', something I don't feel we can afford in this tiny place. This unit has turned out to be ideal. It's nice to have the fruit on display, and to have the saucepans ready to hand - encourages me to cook!

One thing I find frustrating is not being able to put things into the wall. Like screws to attach racks and so forth. I try and make do though - here's my homemade utensil rack.

himonya house tour_0577
himonya house tour_0581

Looking back towards the entrance you can see the door to the loo (pictured below), which just about allows me to sit down without having to cut my legs off. The sticky-out-bit on the left is the bathroom.

himonya house tour_0584

It's a typical Japanese toilet in that when you flush it the water to fill the cistern first comes out of a pipe on top into a mini-sink (lid of the cistern) - a great way to save water as you can wash your hands with water destined for the loo.

himonya house tour_0583

Typical Japanese bathrooms of this size are sealed units - one big piece of moulded plastic. Our water heater is traditional too. You have to turn the handle to get it started (to light the pilot), then wait forever for it to fill the narrow but deep tub (ours takes about half an hour to reach the half-full mark). The bath has two holes in the side: when full, the water is continuously drawn back into the boiler, reheated, and pumped back into the tub, to maintain a constant temperature. In Japan one washes outside of the bath using the shower, and then just uses the tub for soaking and warming (hhm, that phrase sounds a bit familiar... it's one of the answers on the tests that my English students take) - the whole family take it in turns, thus it makes sense to keep it warm.

The big round thing with the pipes coming out the top is our bathroom water filter - our non-filtered tap water is quite heavily chlorinated, and tends to leave me feeling like I need a shower after I've had a shower, not to mention gives me real bad dandruff (and smells!). When I first heard that such a filter existed I thought it was utterly ridiculous and a complete waste of money, but now wonder how we managed without. (disclaimer: that too is distributed by Amway, in which we have a stake :-)

himonya house tour_0585

The ugliness of the space below the sink beside the door left me feeling pretty negative towards that whole part of the house. I resolved to fix it by hiding the sealed up-air vent and waste pipe by buying some white cotton and double sided fabric tape - hey presto, a lovely little curtain!

The other area I set out to improve was the rubbish bins, located to the right of the door.

himonya house_0610

I bought a new bin for raw-rubbish, and then divided the bin to the right into two (one for plastics, the other for non-burnables). Note that below the bin on the left is a little space - this is actually another mini-bin on its side which I use for putting in recyclables like cans and glass jars. Recyclable paper is kept in the bag on the right.

I'm a bit shocked by how much pleasure sorting out the bins gave me.

The other side of the kitchen / living room is *Twinkle*s office. When working there she uses an IKEA chair as a desk, and sits on a cushion on the floor. Having said that, recently she has been using my Mac more and more, so often uses my desk in the next room instead.

himonya house tour_0582

The bookshelf is from IKEA. The curtains are all handmade by *Twinkle*s sister, a designer by trade.

Welcome to my office

himonya house tour_0593

This then is where it all happens. My office / our bedroom.

The table is from IKEA again, only about 2500 yen. The additional LCD (a generous gift from my other sister-in-law and her husband) is used for looking sexy, watching movies and when I'm attempting to multitask.

himonya house tour_0598

It looks a bit of mess from this angle, but usually I don't notice the cables. The printer is kept out of site below the table - possible due to it being front-feed. This was left to me by dear John John. There's also a flatbed scanner there, but it's only used now and then so doesn't warrant a permanent position on top of anything.

To the left are my six little stationary drawers, bought from the local supermarket. They just happen to fit perfectly in the wooden bookshelf that is on it's side.

himonya house tour_0591

Our second IKEA bookshelf is used for all my documents / household records etc. The files were only 250 yen for a pack of five from IKEA.

The opposite side of the room is taken up with traditional built-in cupboards.

himonya house tour_0600

himonya house tour_0601

This is where the futons live during the day. I've also bought a load of plastic drawers, each one labelled with what's in it so *Twinkle* can find stuff after I tidy up. Whilst most have (homemade) purple inserts, I've given a couple of them different colours to help *Twinkle* find what she's looking for quickly :-) (the 'Temp Capsule' is for those clothes which have been worn once, but are not dirty enough for washing, but not brand-spanking clean either. Separate from the laundry basket, it's kind of temporary storage, gets sorted through when I do the laundry).

himonya house tour_0602

Our hanging space is limited - just that in the top-left cupboard, but that's OK as my suit a few shirts are the only things that can't be left in a drawer.

himonya house tour_0604

The shoe-rack, which was by the front door, is now in the cupboard. Whilst this may seem like a waste of space, it's actually helped a lot as we can now use all the space above it (up to the ceiling) and behind it to store things like my rucksack and extra bedding for guests - space that would otherwise go unused.

himonya house tour_0595

Finally, meet our washing machine (also a gift from Y & M). As is often the case in small apartments, it's outside, on the balcony. It doesn't seem to mind. It's cold-water only, and works a treat. After living in Japan the first time, I was left wondering why we waste all that electricity back home by using hot water to wash clothes.

And that's it.

Guests always welcome. Bring clothing suitable for expedition to north pole.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My dad plays God


Photo courtesy of John Dinnen

He's back on the stage, this time playing God in a 'Modern Mystery Play'.

Not quite the image I was brought up with - shows how times change :-)

The reviews are now coming in, and by all accounts it was a sterling performance. 

Well done dad. 

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Goodbye to England, and Hello to my sister

Here we are then, all set. My big bag is now down to 23kg, my two carry on bags about 500kg each. I've checked in online - seat 40k, just behind the right-hand wing, by the window.

It's been a really 'full' day. It's featured a lot of packing and repacking, backing up data, eating, thinking and feeling funny. And a final visit to our wedding oak, which is doing well in the Millennium Wood.

This morning, mum No.2 and her daughter (old school friend) came round to eat cake and say goodbye. That was very much appreciated.

I'm very excited, but nervous too. My schedule for the first couple of weeks is already pretty jam-packed - the result of a long wait (of 13 months) by *Twinkle* to have me back in the country.

I think I'm more prepared for this trip than any other before now. I have a clear picture of what needs doing when. The reality that awaits me is already a reality in my head, based on my knowledge and experience of the places I need to go, the people I need to see, the things I need to do. There's not much by way of unknowns, just lots of knowns - in a new context.

I've enjoyed being around mum and dad today. They've been very well-behaved, and supportive of me in my state of change. Thank you both. Dad has also written a little card for me with some things to keep in mind. I'm touched by how appropriate it is, and will carry it with me, referring to it when need be in Japan. Mum has also helped me a great deal, as mentioned below. Thanks mum.




Today has been a very unusual day, in that as well as my preparing to leave for a new life in Japan, I have spent a good deal of time getting to know my sister, Catherine. Catherine, who bravely battled against a complex mental illness, committed suicide at the age of fifteen - I was three at the time. I remember virtually nothing of her life or death, but have always felt close to her. I'm told that we were close. I've long known that at some point I would need to form a new relationship with her.

The timing may seem strange, but it was only last night, during a coaching session, that it became apparent that it had to be now. I won't be back here for a long time, and this is the place where her belongings, letters, and the diary in which she write of her feelings during her final few months, are recorded.

I read them all, and made digital copies of those that struck me as especially important, in order that I can think on them more in Japan. I also packed the blanket that she made for me, and from which I couldn't be parted as a child. I had been planning to leave it here in the UK.

Catherine really was very brave. The letters of condolence from people who worked with her were full of praise for her friendly, caring, thoughtful manner. But behind her smile there was a huge battle taking place. It's only today, reading her diary and talking to mum for a couple of hours that I have started to get an idea of just how hard life was for her.

Catherine lives on in all of us siblings, and in our parents too. I've long felt supported by her, and I hope that through the work I'll be doing over the next few weeks, I can start to feel settled in my relationship with her.

I'll do my absolute best to make this new life something wonderful that benefits all those that know me.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, August 11, 2008

A CELTA weekend, and Family Planning

So this is what a CELTA weekend is like then: study, study and more study (and a very enjoyable 3-hour trip out to the Peak District to see friends - thank you!)

It's been fun though. You know, I think I'm actually starting to get my head around English grammatical terms, after 30 years of being frightened of them (yep, right from birth). Did you know that a preposition is a word (or group of words) that is used to show the way in which other words are connected? I didn't.

Spent a good few hours on my first assignment too - language analysis. I find it strangely interesting.

Today I'm creating my lesson plan for tomorrow afternoon, a 40-minute class teaching listening skills. My theme: "Mysteries of Everyday Life". Looking forward to it. :-)


Joseph and Twinkle do purikura

Spent a while on the phone to my darling in Tokyo today. Crikey I think I'm rather in love with her. Anyway anyway, we've set aside a weekend soon after my arrival to make some life plans / family plans together. What we would like to achieve in life both individually and as a family, when we'd like to have children (being conceived in Paris so I'm told), that sort of thing. Once that's done we'll look at what we need in order to accomplish those goals, how we need to improve (or bring in outside help) to achieve them.

Of course we've both done this as individuals several times over the past couple of years, but this will be our first family plan as such. It's very exciting!

Caw blimey, I'm going to be living with my cutey by a big pond ten mins from Shibuya in four weeks!

I love life.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Marriage: it's like a sheep pen on the island of Crete

wedding_ceremony_0292

In the end, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

6 months apart, followed by 9 days together, then the wedding.

It seems to have been a good combination. I recommend it.

wedding_ceremony_0307

I've been thinking about this feeling I (we) have, this 'being married' feeling, and wondering how much it is a result of our time apart, and how much it is a result of the wedding itself. My conclusion is that I don't know, and it doesn't matter anyway. The feeling is all that matters.

I'm quite surprised by how different, and how good, it does feel. I didn't really expect things to be very different. I mean, all we've done is say a few words and sign a piece of paper, right? - That was the kind of attitude I may have had a couple of years back (historically, I've not really felt like the marrying type), but no, it seems that we've done much more than that.

wedding_ceremony_0301

There is a strong feeling that this is the start of something new and wonderful. The birth of a family. Our family. Joseph and *Twinkle* Tame (I do a double take every time she emails me from Tokyo using her updated email account). Mr and Mrs Tame - and baby on the way in a couple of years (but already very present in spirit).

We Are Family.

The feeling of family is strong. We laughed and played with it during the 40 hours that we had together after we had made our vows, and before *Twinkle* boarded her flight for Japan.

*Twinkle* Tame I called her. She referred to me as My Husband. We quoted lines from the wedding service to one another, grinning wildly whilst doing so.

The gift of marriage brings husband and wife together
in the delight and tenderness of sexual union
and joyful commitment to the end of their lives.
It is given as the foundation of family life
in which children are born and nurtured
and in which each member of the family,in good times and in bad,
may find strength, companionship and comfort,
and grow to maturity in love...

... *Twinkle*, I give you this ring
as a sign of our marriage.
With my body I honour you,
all that I am I give to you,
and all that I have I share with you...


I felt very happy that I had reached a point where I could make this kind of declaration, surrounded by friends and family, knowing that it was a vocalisation of the true feelings that I had for *Twinkle*.

And you know, it felt important that it was before a large group of loving friends and family. That really struck me - the presence of so many loved ones really did make a difference (of course ideally I would have streamed it live to the world, but the Church of St John the Baptist is yet to be broadband enabled).

I feel that the communal support for us, represented by the presence of those people, and by the cards, gifts, messages and posts on our Facebook walls that we received from all over the world, really added to the sense of us being blessed as a partnership. People were putting their faith in us as a couple - and that mattered a lot. It's like cement in our relationship.

wedding_ceremony_0339

We became a 'unit'. If I try and picture the result of the transformation, I keep on getting this image of the dry-stone wall sheep pen I slept in on the island of Crete, in Greece, in 1995.

(marriage = a sheep pen? Hmm, worrying..)

No, but I see this protective circular stone wall that is formed by *Twinkle* and I. We are interlocking pieces, providing one another with support. Able to look inward to our private enclosed space for comfort, love, advice, support and shelter (whilst I can't see it in my visulisation, there's probably a wifi-enabled Macbook on a little stone table in the middle of this sheep pen). This is our family unit. In our unity we give one another support in the face of the wind and rain that comes to the island now and then.

There's a door too, and we love to welcome people into our space. We love to share the shelter (and probably wifi) of our new family with others. Together, we are a source of support for other back packers traipsing around the greek island, and hopefully an inspiration too.

May the hospitality of their home
bring refreshment and joy to all around them;
may their love overflow to neighbours in need
and embrace those in distress.


We also have much learn from our visitors, much to be inspired by.

I'm deeply touched by the investment that *Twinkle* has made in me. I know that I am the recipient of something wonderful and rare, something to be truly cherished. It's been there for a long time, and I think was the solid rock that gave us something to hold onto when times were tough over the past 11 months (minus 10 days) apart - a rock that really came to shine through the ceremony.

wedding_ceremony_0496

Over the next few days I'll write more about what actually happened last Friday, and share more photos.

For now though, I'll leave it here. Any more talk of sheep pens and I may find myself with rather a lot of explaining to do over Skype...

xxx

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Father's efforts finally pay off, netting £1.6 million



Hurrah for my father!

In 1990 my dad took up a headship at Staunton-on-Wye Primary school. The school was in long-term decline - there were only 28 pupils, and the local education authority was about to close it down. 

When Peter came riding along on his trusty steed (old green Volvo) he declared that the school was far from beat. Over the next seven years he battled to get it back on its feet - and succeeded. 

Thanks to those efforts the government has just announced that instead of closing Staunton-on-Wye primary, they will now be investing £1.6m in building a new school next door to replace the 1862 building.




Three Cheers for the (ex)headmaster Peter Tame!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

After 14 years they rose again


Anne Tame the artist, at work

I'm back on the Welsh garden Project site today. It's good being here and doing some physical work. My hands smell of cow skin, and I have a delicious feeling of knackeredness. Thought I'd take advantage of the lack of rain and get the chainsaw out; spent an hour or so doing a circuit of the garden, dealing with the trees that were felled by the recent gales. With a new chain it makes for satisfying work, quickly cutting through broken boughs and branches to relieve the burden being felt by surrounding trees. It appeals to the tidyman in me too. I like natural-looking gardens, but I especially like tidy natural looking gardens. 

Opening the garage for the first time in a while, I smelt death. It was a strong smell, no mistaking it. It was rising from the corpse of a large rabbit that must have been chased in there by Taize the cat some time ago.

Coming back in at lunchtime I found that same cat sleeping with my pet penguin, Pepe.



What you lookin at?



The morning-after shot: The powerful Tom has had his way; Pepe is left with conflicting feelings regarding his own sexual orientation. 


After lunch, it was back out to clear up the polytunnel. 

But I wasn't really in the polytunnel emptying out last year's tomato plant pots. Instead, I was in that sanatorium in Japan with Naoko and Reiko, as described in Murakami's Norwegian Wood which I'm continuing to listen to, and liking very much. I love being read to. 

(I've just come across a source for free audiobooks at http://librivox.org. I'll give them a whizz as it's a while before I can get any more on subscription from Audible).

I'm pretty good at multi-tasking. As well as listening to a book and clearing up a polytunnel, I was wearing my 'new' patchwork trousers.


I found them under the bed the other night. They aren't really 'new', as I've already worn them for a couple of years, from early 1994 to 1995. I  got them when I was about 16, and had them coat my legs almost everyday during my year at sixth form college. I think they were supposed to attract girls as they have home-installed zips running almost the entire length of each leg. Unfortunately they didn't really work, and in the end I had to leave the country to lose my virginity.

Anyway, they still fit me, both in terms of waistline and length, so I think I'll give them another spin.

Righty ho, on with 'stuff'.

[edit] it has been pointed out that the cat has had his testicles removed, and thus it is unlikely that he was actually having sexual intercourse with Pepe, which is a bit of a relief as if they had become too close Taize may have taken advantage of his being a cat and eaten him.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bank Holiday stuff

Every time I come back to my parent's house I make a point of a) eating mum's home-made chocolate cake, and b) sorting through the stuff under my old bed to see what of my belongings can be given away. As time passes so it becomes easier to dispose of stuff, and it's now reached the stage where all that's left is photos, 40 or so diaries (written when I was age 10 ~ 25), Main Lesson books from the Steiner School, and a large collection of letters from friends before the dawning of email. Oh, and the two amazing jumpers which mum knitted for me when I was about 7 years old, which I'm keeping for our girls (they WILL like dragons!). Come July, it'll be a case of packing these up and giving Yamato Kuro Neko (delivery co) a call - Sheffield Japan Society members being eligible for a discount.

When having a look for any boxes I may have missed last night I came across a camera bag: in it, the old Olympus OM10 that got me started in photography way back in the 18th century. I thought it had been chucked, and so was pretty happy to see it again. I was even more pleased to find the old flash unit that went with it, which, it turns out, works with my NIKON D40x DSLR. OK, so it doesn't exactly sync - I have to put the D40x on manual and compensate -but it fires. Can't use it at shutter speeds above 1/250 though as the flash fires too late and you end up with a section blacked out as the shutter closes (see example of various shutter speeds, from 1/1000 to 1/300 to left). But yeah, this is great as I've wanted a flash unit for a while now as the built-in flash tends to result in bland images, and new Speedlights cost a bomb. This one's got the 360/90 degree swivel so it can be bounced off any surface, resulting in a much more natural spread of light.

Just watching my *Twinkle* on skype. She's on the phone to a friend but left the camera on for me to gaze longingly at her. Happy. Haven't been in touch much lately so it's so nice to see her face again. Reassuring to know that I can understand almost everything she says despite feeling that my Japanese has suffered a bit since I left Japan. And reassuring to find that she's even cuter on skype than in my imagination (tee hee). What will she be like in reality I wonder?

You know I said recently that I'd be taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test test this year? Well, I've been thinking a bit more about this and decided that really, I'd like to enrol on some language course or have a weekly private class to ensure that I really do continue to improve. Also, I'd like to take some training courses of some kind. Exactly what kind I don't know. Some vocational courses. I feel that if I'm to make the most of this chance then I need some guidance. It's all very well having skills, but if you don't know how to apply them you're no better off than a hedgehog armed with an aluminium foil helmet being approached by the Wheels of Doom.

It's funny really, on the one hand I am sick of studying, but on the other hand, the thought of further study/training really excites me. I guess it's because I associate further training with almost immediate benefits to my family. Must be careful not to hide behind "needing more training" though.

Anyway, I'd best finish off this assignment that's due in tomorrow.

Tarra!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Norwegian Wood, Religious Weddings and the Canvas of Life


Latest addition to my mum's art portfolio

Fascinating, thrilling day today. It is so great to see family after such a long time.

I caught the tram at 6.30am, train down to Hereford, bus to Wormelow, car to Orcop. Thoroughly enjoyable journey. Not only did I get to indulge in one of all-time favourite hobbies -sewing patches on my jeans (and this was a MAJOR patch, handmade by my talented friend Suzie H a couple of years back, I've been saving it for such an occasion as today's), but also, I was able to indulge in listening to a new Audiobook - Norwegian Wood by Murakami. I've not read it before, but have long wanted to, knowing how much it is liked by so many of my friends. I absolutely loved 'Kafka on the Shore': I listened to that as I crossed the East China Sea, and found myself identifying with the characters as they made their own journey's West.

Whilst the narration of Norwegian Wood is not spellbinding in the way that that of Kafka was, I'm really enjoying the story nonetheless. I recognise the characters in people I know, the most prominent example being that of the upper-class womaniser destined to be a bureaucrat, who appears to me as the chap from Oxford university who made it to the final of the speech contest with me last month (to the right of me in this picture).



I did a bit of PC-doctoring today, getting my sister's webcam working for Skype (secret is to uninstall the Logitec software and let Skype handle the camera itself) which the boys liked (funny seeing yourself on screen for the first time!), and setting up iTunes so she can listen to some of the audiobooks I've purchased from Audible (you can license up to 3 computers to play your DRM-protected tracks).

Also talked about the wedding quite a bit, lots of good ideas emerging. It's going to be great.

One 'issue' that comes up for some people is this getting-married-in-a-church business. Neither *Twinkle* or I are particularly religious, and as you know, I am not too keen on traditional Christian notions of an almighty 'God' ...so why do I want to get married in a church?

Well, as with everything in life, a church wedding only carries the meaning that an individual chooses to assign to it. In Japan, 'church' weddings are popular (although the church is unlikely to be 'real' and the priest may well be a fake). I feel I have been somewhat influenced by the research I carried out on Japanese 'Christian weddings' in 2006/07, in that for me such a wedding does not necessarily have to relate to any religious tradition, and is really very appealing.

What others may label as "God" I feel is a nameless infinite source; love; an immense energy that fills us, that is us, and all of our surroundings.

Thus, a demonstration of my commitment to *Twinkle* in the 'presence of God' is for me, not a subscription to norms as laid out in holy texts, but rather, a powerful acknowledgement of our decision to commit to strive to bring our energies, our love, into flexible alignment.

There's other, somewhat more tangible reasons for having a church wedding too. I want to see my dream bride walk down the aisle in a beautiful white dress -it's in all the movies! I want the experience of church bells ringing overhead, confetti being thrown as we leave the church. I've been influenced by popular culture, and I want to live the dream.

I also feel that our parents would appreciate a church wedding. Perhaps here again I am influenced by Japanese customs I feel that our wedding is in a way as much an event for our families as it is for us.

Dad

I'm not sure I could have handled a church wedding a year or two ago, but the timing now is perfect.




It's been a tremendous day of synchronisity. I won't go into details here, but just to say that thoughts that have been circulating within my head have today been vocalised by two people close to me, quite out of the blue. It's all related to where do I go from here? Suddenly, concerns over employment after I return to Japan are made to seem like nothing but minor details that are sure to addressed through the natural unfolding of life.

These worries have been dwarfed by the appearance of this huge blank canvas that stretches out as far as the eye can see. In front of it is this incredible array of coloured materials and tools for their application. There's a sign there too. It reads:

Paint your future. Then Live it.


Aghh! I can't deal with that! Where's the colouring book with the numbered options: 1 for red, 2 for blue, 3 for green? Just choose your picture and fill in as prescribed. I know if I do that I'll succeed, everyone does!

...but a blank canvas?! You mean I can paint anything at all? ...But, I dunno what to paint! And what if I go wrong, what if I get the colours mixed up?

I must work to accept that it's only when artists move away from the colouring template that new colours are created by the mixing of the primaries, its only through experimentation that breakthroughs in style are made - and that it is these breakthroughs that bring great joy to artist and onlooker alike.

I've not been faced with such a huge canvas before. It keeps on getting bigger too as it is unrolled further by friends, by family, by books, by experiences. I understand that I'm being challenged to pick up one of the many tools before me and make my mark, but what tool I should use, and what colour should I apply?

It'll come to me. I know it will. I needn't be afraid because I will be guided by someone or something.

It's also important that I not feel I have to paint the whole picture with a single brushstroke - I'd never dare make that sweep from left to right! If I start small with little dabs, holding a clear idea of what I'm looking to create in my mind, with time the scene will emerge. I may accidentally put a splurge of red where green would be better suited, but that red will come to play an important part, perhaps a little poppy in the field of wheat.

Hmm, it's very exciting.

What's even more exciting though, is that in reality, we are all faced with this canvas, every single day.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,