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Friday, July 25, 2008

The night before my wedding

bw_joseph twinkle

It's now ten minutes to midnight on the night before my wedding day. I dropped *Twinkle* back to the cottage we've rented for her parents, where she will spend her last night before she becomes my wife.

It's been an amazing day. Thinking back over the last 16 hours I feel tearful - we have been shown such kindness by so many, and the day itself is yet even to begin! We are so so grateful. Thank you so much to everyone involved.

The village hall looks great - we have hundreds of metres of bunting - handmade by a friend. There are hundreds of origami paper cranes too, made by *Twinkle*s family (it took three of them several hours to fold them all, but they look amazing). In the church we have some beautiful beautiful flower arrangements made by my brother's fiancé and mum, using flowers donated by local gardeners. Paper flowers too, made by *Twinkle*s family and fixed to the walls by *Twinkle*s best friend from Japan, Mariko, who arrived from Barcelona at lunchtime. Our guests from the Netherlands have also arrived safely, as has *Twinkle*s second bridesmaid from Tokyo.

I am staggered by the amount of organisation needed just for a party of about 80 people. My head has been buzzing so much I've found myself feeling pretty out of it for a lot of the day. Kind of like, in a dream world. Floating, watching as my body goes about doing this that and the other. It's not been a bad thing, although I know I've looked pretty dreadful!

But I really can't emphasise enough just how much this wedding is a product of many hours of effort by our family and friends. I am so grateful to be able to hand over huge great chunks of organisation to various volunteers. How can we ever repay them?




Following the rehearsal, *Twinkle* and I decided to spend some time together to just 'be' and share our thoughts and feelings of what the day gone by had meant to us, and our feelings about tomorrow, and our married life beyond that (and to practice our ceremonial kiss!). The venue was our lovely little hire car (I am anti-car in principle but i do like our little blue Chevy which came as a free upgrade from the hire company and sports a string of wedding flags flying from the back!), and the Moon Inn at Garway.

I recently wrote of how marriage is changing things - and again tonight we noted how we could almost reach out and touch the change. It's shifting our feelings for one another to a deeper level. The feeling of trust and commitment is really strong - it's taken me by surprise several times today. (...but I thought I already trusted *Twinkle*, and wasn't I already committed to our relationship?!"). The past week has been a simply perfect 'ramp up' to what will take place tomorrow. The timing could not be better.

The wedding rehearsal was really enjoyable, and natural. It was very relaxed - meaning that it felt appropriate to turn around and put my finger to my lips signalling everyone to be quiet when the priest asked if anyone knew of any lawful impediment to our marriage... tee hee, ;-p We are very fortunate to have Elaine as a priest - she is fantastic, and sets everyone at ease.

If I think of us doing that for real tomorrow surrounded by 80 or so of our closest friends, well, ...wow! Just indescribable! How wonderful to be in that environment, sharing our commitment for one another with all those that mean so much to us.

Well, I guess I'd better get some sleep. It'll be an even longer day tomorrow.

My thanks again to all of those involved in making this happen. In my mind, tomorrow's event will not just be a celebration of the relationship that *Twinkle* and I are committing to, but also a celebration of community, of mutual love and support, of family, of friendship, and of the general wonderfulness of life.

night night.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back in the Alps


As part of my prep for leaving for Japan, I'm going though my box of diaries, which also contains a few DVDs of TV programs featuring me or my friends, and converting them to MP4 format which I can keep on my laptop.

One of them I've not seen for years is the documentary made about my home of two years up in the Swiss Alps, Kleine Scheidegg. It's extraordinary seeing all those familiar faces again. Albert our station master. Tomoko who worked in the buffet. My boss, Andreas, and other colleagues from the hotel.

Andreas

Tomoko. She was very strong. I was a little afraid of her.




These memories will be with me for life. Watching Tomoko go up the stairs of the station building I'm taken aback by my sudden recollection of the smell of the place. It's not that it was particularly smelly, but it did have a distinct scent, a cross between wood, clean toilets and bratwurst sausage. It's amazing how much information I must have stored in my brain, all these little details - like the train conductors shouting "achi achi" (That way that way!") at the Japanese tourists in a Swiss-German accent, or the trains with their electric folding wingmirrors.

Oh! And there's Phil, from South Africa. He worked as a photographer with Benny the dog. Benny would pose with his brandy barrel in the midst of great gangs of Japanese tourists, the must-have Swiss shot to take home to their families.




Having these records of past lives helps me appreciate just how fortunate I've been to have had these experiences. We've all had them of course, but I personally find it difficult to remember events that happened a long time ago unless I have a trigger - such as a photo or film. I don't want to forget, they've all been such an important part of making me who I am today.

I used to take it to extremes. When I was age about 14 I'd always read my diary entry from exactly a year ago. It became a bit obsessive, and I remember worrying that I was becoming stuck in my past.

I like to think I've found a healthy balance now. A balance between appreciation for what has gone before, planning for the future, and focusing upon the here and now.




I visited some friends last night who are helping a great deal with the wedding. I lived with one of them, Frances, for about a year in the very same Hotel Kleine Scheidegg as featured in the documentary above. She became a dear friend to me, and seeing her again after what might even be years without meeting reassured me that we are still close. It was such a meaningful experience to sit and talk with her, and observe how we've both changed since our time in the Alps. People like her make the world a very happy, caring place.

Frances, about to throw a snowball at me

frances_snowballs




The wedding is really starting to take shape now. This evening I spent some time painting elephants on jam jars for the nightlights on the tables. That was very therapeutic, and helped me unwind after yet another day of sorting through belongings and assigning stuff to the recycle or charity shop pile.




I think *Twinkle* and I are going to have to work very hard together, especially over this coming year. We're both capricorn, both very ambitious, both with strong personalities. Of course, we differ in many ways too. For a start, she's much cuter than me.

I hope that I'm far enough along the relationship road to have learnt to not put pride or ego before love. It's going to be a challenging education, being husband to *Twinkle*, but I'll do my absolute best. She's worth every bit of energy I have.

We've been apart for over 4,800 hours. In 40, we'll be together.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Generosity, and packing for Japan

Been a funny old day today. Everything's been out of context. Started with being woken by my mobile. I get an average of one phone call a week, so it startles me even if when I'm already awake. My friend had a puncture, meeting might be delayed. I can sleep in a bit. Tired after last night's coaching call, finished that at 1.30am. It's almost the end of the course, more change there. Good change. Change is good.

But hang on, it didn't start with that phone call. No, it started with what happened the night before. It was about 11pm, and I was unpacking my bag. Earlier in the day a friend of mine (another student) who I'm probably not going to see for a long long time after this week handed me an envelope: "Look after it, and open it when you get home".

When I did open it, I gasped. Inside was a beautiful handmade card with a lovely message, and inside that, a number of bank notes. I was stunned, and tears came to my eyes. This was an act of supreme generosity, utterly unexpected. I was completely thrown by it, and spent some time feeling lost in the kitchen talking to myself.

I contacted them, communicating my feelings. They reassured me. Boy am I grateful. Thank you so much.

This act of generosity made me think a lot about giving and receiving, and reinforced for me the importance of giving in my life.




This afternoon I was on Three Seeds business, Three Seeds being our online publishing company. Met up with our marketing adviser, who, in a nice way, pointed out all of the flaws in our plans. I was very grateful for that - better to hear it from him than someone whose business we are looking for (or the judges at next week's competition final). We need to do some serious thinking about where we want this business to go. It would be a shame to bring it so far (we're now in testing) and not see it to the launch. It's a shame we lost two months to the first company we approached, but no doubt the reason for that will come to light in due course.

Tonight I've been starting to pack for Japan. I move out of here next Tuesday, but will be heading down to London on Friday for a rather special meeting with a high-profile businessman from Japan (I hope I can still speak Japanese!), so basically I need to prepare for the move now. I'm taking a lot of stuff to the charity shops: stationary, kitchen ware, small bits of 'furniture', books, women's clothing.

Whilst I've moved every year since about 1999, this is the most important move yet. I won't be coming back to live in the UK for a long time, so decisions need to be made about stuff that means a lot to me, but has little practical use, or can be bought in Japan for less than the cost of postage to Japan.

I'm down to about ten books. Ten books that have changed my life in various ways. All the rest have gone to Oxfam. I have quite a few things that have been given to me as gifts by friends over the past 15 years, but serve no purpose other than to look pretty and remind me of them. It's tough parting with these things, but I know that my relationships with these people are not ultimately contained within these objects. It's time for someone else to provide a temporary home for them.

I'm so glad that the vast majority of my photos are digitised. If my collection of 20,000+ were in the form of prints and negatives I really don't think I could justify shipping them over. As it is, they just occupy an eighth of my Macbook's (320GB) hard drive. Handy that. Hurrah for technology.

*Twinkle*s getting closer. 15 days. Can't quite come to terms with that. Kind of scary. It means we're getting married soon.

This morning I did a bit more wedding organisation. Booking rent-a-cars, and a hotel for *Twinkle* and I in Windsor, where we'll stay the night before she returns to Japan. It's all going to happen so soon. In a month she'll be back in Japan, and I'll be back here at Sheffield, learning how to teach.

Ho hum.

Well, best be off. I need to sleep - tomorrow is my last day working for CILASS (probably!). A group of people from Hong Kong have come to the UK to tour learning environments - I'm one of the Sheffield Students providing the student p.o.v. on the IC.

Nighty night.

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