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    Thursday, July 31, 2008

    The wedding service

    The morning of the wedding was pretty hectic. I'd had this idea that if I tried to prepare everything as far in advance as possible, there would be little to do on the day itself ...but it didn't quite turn out like that!

    At 7.20am I was on my way to Hereford to do some shopping. Concerned that we wouldn't have enough drinks, I'd decided to get a load from the local supermarket, to where they could be returned afterwards if we didn't use them (although I'd forgotten that alcohol can only be sold after 8am - had to wait by the checkout with my trolley, watching the seconds tick by!).

    That trip kind of set the pace for the rest of the morning. I think it was also demonstrative of how I was having problems letting go. Having spent so many weeks planning and organising, I was now finding it hard to trust that the details would sort themselves out. I wasn't used to having so many people on hand willing to help, and still felt that if something needed to be done I should do it myself (not that I didn't trust others, but rather because it was my 'responsibility' to make sure everything was OK).

    In the face of this my brother Stephen did a fantastic job of ensuring that I breathed before the service. I was confined to my bedroom, forbidden from coming downstairs. I was to get dressed, and then sit on my bed and wait until it was time to go.

    I more or less managed this, and the last hour or so before the service was actually pretty relaxing.

    A memorable moment came at 2.30pm, half an hour before the ceremony was due to begin. I suddenly realised that I could hear the bells ringing at the church across the valley - they were ringing for us! That made me so happy... I thought of the difficulties I'd had in finding the bell-ringing team (in the end I located them through a wild Google search!) - it had definitely been worth it!


    All suited up, we then made our way to the church in my little hire-car. *Twinkle* would be following later from the guest house with her father in the classic 1930s Alvis, owned by a neighbour of ours who had very kindly offered his services (and he did so against the odds too - only a few days earlier the gearbox had packed up; he'd put considerable effort into finding another in time so that he could drive us on the day).

    *Twinkle*, father, and the Alvis, arriving at the church

    Arriving at the church a few minutes later I was stunned - there were all these people there that I knew!

    I know it sounds silly (after all, I was the one that had sent the invites out) but it really was amazing. All these dear friends and family members, some of whom I'd not seen in ages, had come together for us. It was surreal in a way, and time and time again I found myself surprised and delighted by the faces that were there. The neighbours had come down to watch as well - these were the neighbours that had donated flowers from their gardens, given us cards and presents, leant us staplers for our order of service, dropped off hay bales for people to sit on, offered their homes for our friends from far away to stay in... 

    They're all AMAZING!

    Flowers, courtesy of 'aunty' Louise and mum - and the neighbours

    And this is something that has really touched me: the community effort. I lived in Orcop for about 8 years, until the age of 16 when I moved into that bedsit with the walls that crumbled when I attempted to put a shelf up. Since then, with the exception of the Torquay Years, I've always regarded it as home, that safe place that never changes and is always open for me to come back to should I need to.

    That's why that despite the fact that I've not 'lived' here for 14 years it felt appropriate to hold the wedding in the valley. It was also an area that *Twinkle* was familiar with having visited here several times for little holidays. Looking back on the events of last week, I can see now that it was indeed a very good decision.

    Yesterday, I was going through a list of people that had helped make it happen. Not counting those actually present at the wedding, I came up with over twenty local families that had played a vital part in ensuring that everything was in place. As mentioned above there was the car, the flowers, the accommodation, there was also parking at the church (in people's driveways and also in a field of sheep), local B&B and camp site owners who had been so flexible, the church cleaning team, the chap who mowed his grass next door so people could park on the verge, the provision of an amp for the service, oh, and the Royal Air Force too - they did a low, slow fly past in a Hercules when we came out of the church!

    It seemed everyone in the area knew about the wedding, and expressed their support and congratulations.

    Naturally, we are both very grateful for the all of this support. ...and it feels good, affirming my connections with the area before leaving the UK.

    Anyway anyway, where were we? Ah yes, I'd arrived at the church.

    Walking down the aisle to take my seat at the front I was again delighted to see yet more familiar faces - caw, this was all a bit exciting really! Everyone was here to share in our marriage commitment.

    After a little wait, Mum #2 pressed the magic button, and Pachabel's Canon filled the church - *Twinkle* had arrived. I didn't turn around though, too nervous at first, but then I kept on hearing Louise urgently whispering in excited tones to Stephen, "Tell him to turn around! Turn around!"

    And so I did.


    I must admit I felt breathless when I saw *Twinkle* in her wedding dress. She was the most beautiful bride in the whole world ever, soooo beautiful (OK, so I may be biased). I wasn't sure if I was going to cry or not, so looked away ...but had to look back again. Caw blimey, this is quite a coup I thought. How on Earth did I manage this?

    Having had the rehearsal not 20 hours beforehand, we were both pretty comfortable with our lines (although I'm told that we both said "till death us do part" backwards - not that we noticed!). It was good though, it felt very right to be making those promises. I know one or two members of the congregation raised their eyebrows at references to Father, Son and Holy Spirit (knowing that neither of us are active church-goers); they told us so afterwards as well. But as I have written before, I see these elements of church services as just another interpretation of broader spiritual ideas / truths / beliefs that are the very core of our existence, regardless of religious beliefs. 'God' 'Love' 'Source', no matter what your chosen label, it's still referring to the same thing, and that's the energy source from which we have come, and the energy source that connects *Twinkle* and I.

    I was sooo happy when we were pronounced husband and wife! tee hee. What a happy moment. In fact the whole thing was rather happy.

    I'm so glad we got married in that church too - it was the perfect setting, with its cute red carpet and sloping floors. Many people have commented on how much they enjoyed the service, and I must say, it really felt very right.

    Mum #2 was in ambidextrous mode, and in addition to being our DJ, she read that lovely chapter from Corinthians on Love - she even did the last line in Japanese (and great pronunciation too!). My sister Emma, and *Twinkle*s friend Mariko from Osaka read from Gibran's The Prophet ('Valentine'), giving us the opportunity to think about what we were entering into.

    As we signed the register with our witnesses Jess (my sister, with nephew Jamie in tow) and Xinxin (dear friend from Sheffield), so Ruth began to play her piano and sing Al Green's 'Let's Stay Together'. She has such a great voice, just beautiful. Added so much to the atmosphere. Thank you Ruth.

    (Jamie is hiding behind Jess)

    Following our blessing, DJ Mum #2 pumped up the volume - we receded down the aisle as husband and wife to Mendelson's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba - a traditional and very jolly tune!

    And with that, we were married :-)



    (*Twinkle*s take on the whole wedding thing can be found on Mixi!)

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


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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...


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    Peter's Crazy Tomatoes

    News on the wedding will follow shortly.

    In the meantime please enjoy my father's crazy tomatoes.

    They are called Mr and Mrs Crazy Tomato.

    peter's crazy tomatoes_9216

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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,! 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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    Thursday, July 24, 2008


    Our thanks to John who will be taking photos for us at the wedding (so that I don't have to pause proceedings in order to take a photo of us - although I'd like to!) Here's one he took yesterday in the garden :-)

    If you're coming to the wedding, don't forget you can upload your own photos to our online album.

    Friends who are not attending the wedding are also welcome to view the album, although much of it may be repeated on Flickr. Email me if you'd like the address and login details.

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    The wedding tree

    *Twinkle*s family arrived yesterday. I was a little nervous about the meeting of the parents, what with mine being completely crazy.

    Thankfully, it went really really well, with *Twinkle*s parents saying afterwards that they found it hard to stop laughing (that'll be dad's humour which does indeed seem to cross international borders).

    After the initial meeting, and before supper, *Twinkle*, her family and I made our way to the local Woodland Trust Millennium Wood. Three years ago I found a little sprouting acorn on the Welsh Garden Project. I planted it, and it's now a healthy baby, about 2 foot tall.

    With *Twinkle* and I soon leaving to live in Japan, we thought it would be nice to leave a symbol of our relationship here in the UK, something that would grow stronger over time (and suck up the Co2 that we breathe out during our future visits to the UK).

    Thus, last night, having been granted permission by the Woodland Trust, *Twinkle*s parents, sister and the two of us cleared a patch of bracken and brambles in the Millennium Wood, dug a deep hole and planted our oak tree.





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    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Graduation photos

    Live from the Little Chef on the M6 heading south from Sheffield... some shots from today's graduation ceremony.

    Well done all of us. Thanks Sheffield!

    seas on the steps_9125

    joseph graduation ceremony_9102

    joseph and twinkle graduation_9119

    joseph anne peter twinkle_9148

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    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Marriage - from the pre-wedding perspective

    twinkle and joseph_9018

    The past couple of days have started to see a change in the relationship between myself and *Twinkle*. I think I know why that could be - the Marriage Effect.

    It first struck me yesterday when we were driving home to the holiday cottage that we've rented about 500 yards from mum and dad's place. Before now, we've lived together for the best part of two years. I didn't expect marriage to change much in the dynamic between us, but it would seem that it's doing just that.

    These past few days we've been pretty independent. My parents have kindly given us use of the family car, which has enabled us to freely go about doing the things we need to do in preparation for the wedding, in addition to do things like go and watch the sunset from a local hilltop. During all of this, we've been talking. Talking about the past, the present, and the future. Talking about what marriage means to us. In fact, we've started creating our own list of additional marriage vows - a bit more definite than the vows we shall swear in church (those being the foundation on which we can build these additional promises).

    All of this has led to a subtle shift in our relationship. A strong feeling of commitment is on the rise. Sure, it's been there before, but not like this. This is something far bigger, something that can be relied upon. It's tied up with a deepening sense of trust, and excitement that we're in this long-term, together.

    The marriage creates a strong feeling of team work - and independence too. Independence from our immediate families who have supported us in so many ways until now. This will no doubt be strengthened by our setting up a new home in Japan, a long way from my family, and the other side of Tokyo from *Twinkle*s. The combining of our finances too, which has basically already happened, promotes the feeling that whatever we're working on, it's a team effort with a common goal.

    It may be a couple of years before we have children, but nethertheless, we will be a family in our own right.

    It's a bit surreal to be reaching this point after 30 years of being dependent upon others.

    Hmm, so it's feeling like it's quite a big deal really.

    It is a shame that *Twinkle* will be returning to Japan just two days after the wedding, but provided she makes it hop, skip and jump to the local ward office in Japan asap I should be able to join her within a few weeks.

    Then it all starts for real.


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    Monday, July 21, 2008

    *Twinkle*s arrival and the first of two weddings

    The drive to Heathrow airport never takes as long as I expect it to. I think of London as being a long way away, but it actually takes less than three hours to get there from Herefordshire, and what with the airport being located just off the M4 there's not much in the way of traffic to deal with.

    Whilst I object to the expansion of UK airports, I couldn't help but be impressed by Heathrow's new terminal 5. It was only a one-minute walk from the car to the arrivals gate, and no chance of getting lost.

    heathrow arrivals00222

    I arrived at exactly the same time that *Twinkle*s flight touched down; the display told me that that the bags were arriving in the terminal within ten minutes, and 20 minutes after that Japanese businessmen, students and families started to emerge from behind the automatic doors. Any moment now, *Twinkle* would show up.

    I must admit I was pretty excited ...excited and nervous. I sensed that *Twinkle* had changed quite a bit since I had last seen her, and consequently some aspects of our relationship were an unknown.

    And then there she was.

    It was a bit funny at first. I'm not sure how to describe it. A bit surreal. We weren't sure what to make of one another.

    But that was before we spent no less than twenty minutes trying to find the car in the huge multi-storey car park. In my excitement I'd forgotten to make a note of where I'd parked, and not knowing my parents' registration number I couldn't use the Car Finder machine (the car park has thousands of cameras pointing at every single number plate). Thus, *Twinkle* and I has to visit every single level, before finally locating it on the 3rd.

    That reassured *Twinkle* that I was as silly as ever, and it wasn't long after that that we got back in the groove.

    It is soooo good to be with her again. These are really very happy days.

    mischevous twinkle_8833

    During our six months apart, our conversations were often restricted to 'issues' or 'problems'; with limited talk-time these would naturally take precedence over idol chit-chat and the sharing of niceties, consequently turning the relationship into something that revolved around serious and meaningful 'stuff'. Now back together, I'm surprised and delighted by how nice it is to just 'be' together, to share silly moments or our appreciation of a beautiful view, to make fun of one another, to smile, to be kind to one another, to comfort one another with a hug.

    (there's the real physical stuff too, which I shan't bore you with. But I'm grinning as I type this!)

    All of these things have been lacking since January, and our memories of them couldn't help but become clouded by the passage of time, the separation, and the dominance of seriousness. Rediscovering the sheer joy of just being in her presence, knowing that she is close by, is just great.

    Bridesmaids at Catherine and Stewart's wedding


    We've had a really fun 5 days together so far.

    On Friday we attended Catherine and Stewart's wedding, Catherine being a dear friend whom I first met at the Waldorf School, many many years ago.

    The venue was the beautiful Walcot Hall, a lovely stately home set in the gorgeous Shropshire countryside.

    I was so nervous as Catherine came down the aisle - partly because I knew that in exactly a week from then it would be *Twinkle* doing the very same thing. All those people watching, such an important event, but then I saw her smiling and laughing as she kind of made fun of herself, and I relaxed. I need to remember this for next week I thought. Don't be too serious!

    The civil ceremony was lovely, and had some good comical bits to help set everyone at ease. Catherine looked absolutely stunning, and what a bloomin' nice chap Stewart is.

    catherine wedding dress_8782

    catherine stewart just married_8792

    The reception was great too. Initially I felt a little out of place, but within an hour or so friendships were forming - and food was on the table (delicious).

    At one point, *Twinkle* and I went for a dance in the pitch black garden - that was rather amusing, especially when it suddenly poured down with rain drenching us both!

    It was pretty late when we left. Our accommodation for the night was a little two-man tent in a field at the bottom of the drive, and very comfy it was too. The perfect end to a perfect day.

    joseph twinkle in their tent

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    Touching base

    In response to anonymous' comment on the previous post: you'll have to bear with us - things are a little busy at wedding central...

    Will be back online 'soon'.

    Driving back from Heathrow

    twinkle joseph driving back from Heathrow

    At Ludlow castle

    twinkle and pepe at Ludlow_8931


    twinkle and joseph in their tent

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    Thursday, July 17, 2008


    Ittekimasu is what Japanese people say when they are leaving the hosue. It literally means, "I'm going, and I'll come back".

    I'm off to Heathrow - *Twinkle* should be touching down in just under three hours. It's terminal 5 - let's hope the wedding dress makes it too!


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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.


    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


    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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    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Initiating change

    Wordle of Change

    You know that space you often find yourself in when you wake up, that space where it's just you and the remnants of your dream? You might not be aware of where you are, or to a certain extent, 'who' you are. By 'who', I mean who you are to the world around you. Who you are in the workplace, who you are in relationships, who you are within that complex network of friends and family that exists around you.

    I woke up in just such a space this morning. I was unconscious of the fact that my physical body was at my parent's house, unconscious that I was about to get married, unconscious that I have things I need to do today.

    I opened my eyes, and seeing the cupboard beside my bed, so I became aware of where I was. With my location established, so my place in the world began to come back to me. There was the wedding. There was *Twinkle*. There was Joseph, in Orcop.

    However, this morning It took a bit longer than usual to fit into the self-constructed id, and I found myself putting an arrest upon 'reality's creep'.

    Hang on a sec, I thought, I don't have to be this person, I don't have to fit into this world that is a construct of every day of my life up until now.

    I could change everything, now.

    I could leave everything behind. Walk out of the door and start a completely new life. Go and live in Siberia (would have to take a wooly jumper).

    A few moments later I'd had an opportunity to think about what I'd like to change in the reality I've constructed, and decided that actually, there was nothing I would change, and I am very happy to continue along the current path I have chosen.

    However, this brief period of time spent in that space free of earthly concerns reminded me of the immense potential we all hold (those of us that are fortunate to live in 'free' societies), a potential for change. If we don't like our lives in any way, we can choose to change it, completely, with a single decision that could be made in a split second. We are only bound to our current situations by our own self-imposed limits, limits that give us an enormous sense of comfort by placing scary (limitless) possibilities out of reach.

    I like crossing boundaries, I like big change. I like having the freedom to choose to act independently of a personal daytime reality, the reality that becomes our identities in the morning.

    I think, in a way, this is one reason why I enjoy living in Japan. In Japan my id is far from concrete. I have good friends, but they are few (I can count them on one hand), thus meaning that I am free of any history when stepping out into the world. I'm free to be who I choose to be that day, with far fewer self-imposed restrictions. Just guided by what feels right.

    It'll be interesting to see if the reality I create in Japan comes to mirror the reality I have in the UK. I suspect that it might, but it will be far more limited. I'm going to have to make quite an effort to form the kind of networks I have here in the UK. That's something I've not been too good at in Japan in the past. I've tended to keep my world small, revolving around a few close friends / my partner. I know I need to reach out, especially to the foreign community in Japan. With two notable exceptions, I've resisted that in the past.

    Perhaps it's time for some massive change there.

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    Monday, July 14, 2008

    Results are out (again)

    Here we go then, final results, officially published today on the university portal.


    Wedding plans

    I was woken this morning by a bird fighting a cat for its life, following the launch of nature’s latest reality TV program ‘Battle for Supreme Animal of Wales’. Peeking out of my door (the one which was falling off its hinges until I screwed it back on last night) I couldn’t see the competitors, a cat and a sparrow, although I could hear them. High pitched cheeps pierced my eardrums, interspersed with loud hisses from the cat as the bird launched a volley of carefully aimed lime . The cameras are being operated by a local hedgehog and sparrowhawk (with digital cameras strapped to their heads); these feed back to the mixing desk controlled by Badger Boris, who despite being in his 90s has embraced digital media in a way that has surprised his children. The program will be aired on YouTube next month.

    A few minutes after waking I got a call from *Twinkle*, she’s sounding good, and has been looking for decorations for the wedding reception. In three days she’ll be halfway here, something I’m having trouble comprehending. If anyone out there is making a program about romantic reunions make your way to Terminal 5 on Thursday, we can offer some very competitive sponsorship deals. That reminds me, must phone BA today to ask about the wedding dress - don't want it getting lost in the legendary terminal 5 baggage handling system.

    It’s all coming together nicely, this wedding thing. Thanks to Mums#2 & 3 we now have hundreds of plates and bowls, and a collection of tents, mattresses and sleeping bags for some guests who have not camped before - this includes a family who are over here from China - I’ve assured them that it’s an important part of British culture and thus something that must be experienced during their stay. Let’s just hope the 20-year-old airbeds don’t go flat on them in the night!

    Later today I’ll be picking up the key for the venue to have a nosey around, then going to meet the Decoration Guru. This evening I’m visiting our friend the catering manager, so hopefully following that I can get an email out to all guests with final details on what’s happening.

    We’ve been in touch with the Forestry Commission and have been granted permission to plant our Oak tree (grown from an acorn found here on the Welsh Garden Project) in a local Millennium Wood (that’ll be on the day before the wedding) - a part of us will always be in the valley.

    The 45-hour honeymoon is pretty much sorted. It will take place along the M4 corridor on the way to Heathrow - romantic or what?! No, but we have got a couple of very nice hotels booked, so even if it is short, it will be sweet. We’ll have a ‘proper’ honeymoon once back in Japan.

    After the wedding I’m going to be so busy with my TEFL course that the five week visa wait should fly by. They’ve already sent me the pre-course assignment. That can wait until *Twinkle*s gone back to Japan, 13 days from now…


    Train Story

    hereford station_8704

    Back on the train today, heading for Bristol to find some clothes that might be suitable for a wedding (our wedding). It’s been an interesting journey so far. Started in the musty waiting room on platform two - a forgotten waiting room. No matter how long the wait or how bad the weather, no one goes in there. The space just hangs, not moving, only nudged by the occasional tannoy announcement.

    Attached to the wall of the forgotten waiting room are three glass-fronted notice boards: inside them a series of photos depicting the station as it has changed over time. Apparently, it was built as a temporary stop in the mid-1850s, serving as the terminal station for three different lines that ran on different gauges. I found it interesting that health and safety officials were active even back then - in the years after the station’s opening they demanded that the platforms be rearranged so as to prevent accidental deaths.

    Looking at those photos of folks waiting for trains in the late 1800s and early 1900s made me wonder what life was like for them. They must have had very different concerns, and I’m sure lived much more in the present than we do now. I wonder how changes in circumstance have changed us in terms of fundamental beliefs and spiritual values, Were they more in tune with spirit back then than we are now? Have the distractions of modern life left us disconnected with source? Difficult to know. I guess I could go and take the Connection Test on to find out.

    Boarding the train, I found an empty table and took a seat. I was listening to my iPod - an audiobook featuring the 81 verses of the Tao. I find it very calming. The message ‘none of this matters’ is repeated again and again, and helps me to let go of any stress I may have attached to my daily to-do list. It’s liberating to be reminded that it’s not really about achievement, success or possession. It’s just about being, now. Sometimes it’s difficult having that as a core belief when society dictates something else.

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    The hill on which I live, as seen from the train

    I was soon joined by a family of three: mum, dad and 17-year-old daughter Holly. They were on their way to an open day at Swansea University, which has lower entrance requirements that Birmingham (where Holly really should go because it has the best neuroscience department). Best to have a back-up plan in case Holly doesn’t get straight ‘A’s for her exams, but we know you’ll get those, won’t you Holly?

    I sat next to them in silence for a long time, listening to mother doing enough talking for all three of them. It was clear that she was the boss. The exact opposite of her withdrawn husband, she had opinions on everything, and especially what Holly wants to do with her the rest of her life.

    I wondered at what age Holly will rebel. She’s still at home, still under her mother’s spell at the moment. But when she gets to uni it will all change. She’ll give up Polo and take up drinking. She’ll decide that actually she hasn’t the slightest bit of interest in neuroscience, pack her bags and go travelling around India with her new boyfriend. One year later she’ll write home, a scribbled message on the back of a photo of her 4-week-old baby - she’s now in Malaysia where she’s set up a school for impoverished children.

    We were ten minutes from my stop, a good time to start a conversation. I wasn’t so interested with what Mother had to say, I was more interested in what Holly really thought about uni. Looking Holly in the eye, I told her that I had a couple of friends who went to Swansea - they’d loved it. She was about to reply when Mother jumped in, and for the next ten minutes told me about her friend who had a problem with snails eating their vegetables.

    That threw me. The monologue lasted ten minutes. I wished Holly well, said goodbye to mother and father, and alighted at Newport.

    And here I am, on the train for Bristol (currently under the river Severn).

    The plan today is to spend some quality time with Tim, Mel and Callum, and buy my wedding outfit. I have a good feeling about this.



    Anonymous has rightly pointed out that I could have read Holly and her mum all wrong - (s)he has an alternative reading of the situation in the comments section.

    This prompted me to take another look at Holly and her mother, and in this time, I found something very different...

    "...Maybe, just maybe, her overbearing mother is actually a superhero, who is usually to be found leaping between tree tops in the Amazon in a bid to save the rainforest.

    She lives on a diet of raw cocoa and hippo milk (the secret to her super powers) and does battle with illegal loggers who visit the region in order to supply Harrods with expensive furniture. Her greatest weapon is a sonic boom which she emits by saving her vocal cords for three days, releasing all the energy at once.

    She has saved over 30,000 hectares of pristine forest in this way.

    By day, she is mother to Holly."


    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Launch of iPhone 3G (and the non-launch of MobileMe)

    Wow. A historic day in the gadget world. The iPhone 3G is out (released in New Zealand a few hours back, comes out here in the morning), MobileMe was launched, and then disappeared (and remains unavailable), and the Apps Store went live.

    The apps store (available in iTunes) has got some really sweet software. This iPhone is going to change the mobile scene Big Stylee. For the first time, virtually anyone can develop apps for mobiles and market them for next to nothing to a global user base. I don't like mobile phones at all and haven't upgraded mine in years ...but the iphone is something else.

    I mean, come on, how can you resist when you can use it as a remote control for your music library on your computer.

    And what about this one: listening to a piece of music and want to know what it is? Let your phone listen to it for 5 seconds and it will tell you what the song is (and provide you with a link to buy it).

    And then there's Exposure: it's Flickr in your pocket. But check this out - you can tap on a button and using the iPhone's GPS and Flickrs metadata it will show you a bunch of photos taken near where you're standing! (good for people who are so addicted to looking at their iPhone they miss the surrounding scenery.

    Other apps I downloaded (despite not having an iPhone or iPod Touch) included Twitterific, a groovy calendar-converter for Japanese years, the evernote app and ...Facebook. A totally pointless exercise, but they bring me closer to the iPhone (which I'll pick up in September).

    And that remote control app for iTunes. I know it is just silly to get so excited about turning your phone into a remote control, but I don't know, there's something about it that just gets me.

    It seems Apple is experiencing major issues with MobileMe though. Let's just hope they get it sorted soon though so I too can wake up to Exchange for the rest of us :-)

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    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    I'm marrying *Twinkle* in 15 days

    Ha. Everything but the girl. Nice.

    Last week I upgraded my Macbook's hard-drive to the 320GB Toshiba MK3252GSX. At £66 it was a bargain, and being a Macbook the upgrade can be done on the kitchen table in about three minutes.

    One result of this is that I can now fit my entire music collection on my laptop - I used to just carry a small selection, whilst my main library was on an external drive that was a bit of a bore to plug in. This week I've been stuck on the playlist "Not played recently", and wow, what a treat it has been. What a wonderful gift music is. Rediscovering all this old stuff that I've not heard in ages. Pink Floyd. Everything But the Girl. Genesis. Beth Orton. Joni Mitchell. Dick Gaughan. Nick Drake.

    Another result of the upgrade is that I've rediscovered my video collection which, like my music, had been languishing on an external drive. I was staggered to find that I have 567 home-movies, many of which I haven't seen in years. My favourites were those taken in the first few months of my relationship with *Twinkle* (I haven't shot so many since then). She's so funny, and so cheeky. Watching those really brings it home to me why I love her so much. I wrote a little while back about a difficult patch we were going through then, and how we had 'lost touch with one another's realities."

    After 6 months apart, the love I feel for her is not grounded in or dependent upon any physical realm. It's not her cutey looks, her kind words or her personality. It's underground, it's her spirit, her 'soul'. That's been so important, as when there's ripples across the surface, I just look below - the water is calm, rich, full of life.

    Thus, watching those videos of her in hysterics due to me looking terrible in a photo that she'd just taken of me (etc) have been a great reminder of just what a joy it is to be with her on a 'superficial' level. She is so lovely to hang out with, and I can hardly believe that I have been so fortunate as to be destined to be her husband. I mean seriously, I can hardly believe that someone who fits so perfectly with the 'girl of my dreams' is coming to the UK next week to marry me. It's a miracle!

    I have a lot to thank Sheffield uni for, and a lot to thank the world in general for.

    Thank you world

    (now please tell Apple to get on with the MobileMe launch. .mac was due offline 9 minutes ago but it's still working!).

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    Another step towards openness

    Being an Apple fan boy, I am very excited about picking up my iPhone in September. I've been finding myself in various situations thinking, "ah, if only I had an iPhone now I could... I know it's not for everyone, but for someone who rarely goes anywhere without a Macbook, well, an iPhone would mean freedom.

    A lot of my work is macbook-based. Also, I use it to communicate with *Twinkle*, like a (large, somewhat inconvenient) mobile phone.

    The combination of the iPhone and MobileMe (due to launch in 81 minutes) is very powerful. The idea that I can have access to ALL of my data (only excluding my 500 home videos) from anywhere really excites me. I get such a thrill when someone asks me a question and I'm able to find the information they need within seconds - that's one reason why I love being *Twinkle*s secretary.

    Anyway, thinking about the iPhone got me thinking about what email address I'll use with it. I want something 'permanent', not some transitory address that I'd only be able to use with that one carrier in Japan (the same thinking is behind my decision to buy three phone numbers for life from Skype - one for UK callers, one for Japan-based callers and one for my US contacts). We've long been dependent upon these companies for our contact-identities, but technological developments and the relative generosity of companies like Google (in providing Google Apps) means that we can now use our own personally-selected identities with virtually any communications device.

    So if I wasn't going to be, what was I going to be?

    Hmm, maybe I could take the next step with my 'experiment'.

    One part of my 'life experiment' was to start to be very open on my mumble about my thoughts and feelings. To not devalue or disregard my own ideas in the face of the opinions of others, to try and live in the flow.

    The second stage of this process was to put a link to my blog in my email signature. However, I was still a bit uncomfortable with this and so I'd often delete the signature before sending, not wanting those people to know about it.

    And I do continue to find myself reacting with discomfort when a colleague or friend tells me that they've read my blog ...and I really don't like to see TDM displayed on someone else's monitor. But paradoxically, I also embrace those situations. It's another opportunity to let go. I am Joseph. I do not have to be what others want me to be. If I act out of love for others and in harmony with my core values, it's ok. I do not need their subjective approval. Their opinions are just their opinions. There is no hierarchy, we are all together in this grand adventure called life. We can learn from one another. Someone criticising me is doing me a great favour - they are providing me with a far greater opportunity to grow than someone agreeing wholeheartedly with what I'm saying.

    So back to this email thing then.

    How about I adopt one of my web-domains as my email server? That would mean that I would effectively be advertising my online presence to anyone and everyone I sent an email to. How would that feel? It would be like inviting strangers into my heart to have a look around. That feels kind of uncomfortable. Surely there's a limit to how open one 'should' be.

    I thought about this for a long time. It was a difficult decision to make. Changing my email address so that it pointed at thousands of pages of stuff about me would make for a big step out of my comfort zone, and one that runs counter to prevailing popular trends (in that most people are doing all they can to protect their privacy).

    After a day or so I decided that yes, I will take this step. It is uncomfortable, but I feel it is the right thing to do. I'm not sure why, but I think I'll find out in due course.

    This documenting my life online has come to be a big part of me, and I feel I have been given some incredible opportunities as a direct result of it. It's not always easy, and I have to try hard to ensure that it doesn't impact upon those that I love who are not so enamoured by the idea of being so open with the world.

    The transfer of just over 22,000 emails from my old email account to my new one took three days (via POP3). It's all sorted, and my new iPhone email is all ready for it's new sexy host come September.

    (Emails sent to my old email address will continue to be delivered.)

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    CILASS for Students website (private launch)

    This mumble features a fair bit of bathing in my own glory (so no change there then).

    I'm delighted to say that the CILASS for Students website is complete. It won't be officially launched until the next academic year, but I won't be around then, so I thought I'd quietly launch it to my friends now I made it :-)

    The aim of the student-targeted site is to promote an understanding of and engagement in Inquiry-based Learning, raise
    awareness of the work that CILASS does, and provide an opportunity for the amazing Student Ambassadors to tell the world about the incredible things that they do.

    It's based upon an original site created last autumn by all of the CILASS Student Ambassadors, with further input from the CILASS core team. Being an 'official' university site, last year's attempt to communicate with students was severely limited by the uni's CMS (Content Management System) which basically guarantees that even the most exciting of ideas end up looking about as interesting as a pile of rotting onion skins. Here's the most exciting page on the university website :-p

    I think it was around March when I proposed that we do our own thing. Take it out of the university template. Create our own site from scratch. I wasn't really imagining that I'd end up creating a 50-page site. Bloomin' crazy idea if you ask me, end of my final year and all. But it was something I really wanted to do, so it just sort of happened. I was able to use the material supplied by the SAN for the first site, and benefited from lots of feedback from them during the development process - special thanks to Emmy and Ali.

    I must say, I'm really pleased with the result, and I'm delighted by the response it's received. The CILASS core team have been very complimentary; seeing the site for the first time the director told me it had made her day. The university's Pro-vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning also emailed to say how good he thought it was, whilst central support staff were also very impressed by how comprehensive it was - yet studenty in appearance.

    I should add that it is still in need of a lot of padding. My goal was to create the basic structure and core content - the plan now is for the SAN to fill in the holes and make it into a great resource.

    I'd like to thank Sabine and Nicola for allowing me to do this, for giving me the freedom to pursue the project in google 20% time style.

    I'm now in the process of creating support materials for the site (using the gorgeous Screenflow - OS X 10.5 only). One fear of mine (and of the core team) is that without me there to supervise the site might fall into dissaray (look what happened to the beautiful site I created for Milky House 5 years ago! Talk about cannabalisation). Thus, support material is vital.

    I'd like to be able to use the site as a part of my portfolio. I don't see myself going into website design for a living, but nonetheless, I think it's a good demonstration of versatility (and I don't want to be pointing employers at TGW now do i?!).

    Thanks to everyone who contributed, a great team effort! I look forward to seeing it being developed further over the next year.

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    Tuesday, July 08, 2008


    So here we are WigStylers, back in my hometown. I mean, home village. It's been a manic few days, what with my travelling by train or car hundreds of miles to the three corners of the UK (Sheffield, London, Hereford) to meet important people, give presentations, pack all my belongings and move house.

    In the past 24 hours I've given away at least half of all of my worldy stuff. I find it has to be done in stages. On the first day I can only dispose of those things that I have no emotional attachment to and have no use for, but by day three I'm giving away things I've had for years, presents from friends and family, valuable stuff that I could use but would cost too much to send to Japan.

    It hurts to part with some of these things, but I think it's healthy. I don't want to be dependent upon 'stuff' for happiness in life. All of these belongings will find new homes thanks to the local charity shops.

    Having said that, I can't live without my Macbook so no, you can't have it.

    The remaining three boxes await Yamato Kuro Neko (Japan's No.1 courier which also has an office in the UK, Tel 01753 657 688) who will come and pick them up to Ship to Japan at the end of the month (£50 for a 25kg box by surface mail, £80 by airmail).

    It's good to have left Broad Lane Court. I feel I'm able to get a bit more closure on my uni years and associated projects. With no base there any more, I feel able to shift my energy and attention down to Herefordshire (and of course the wedding). I do still have three Sheffield-based projects left to deal with, but am working on that. 

    Need to get it all done ASAP, *Twinkle* arrives in 8 days, and I still have a wedding to sort out. 

    It's a pretty wiggy time though. I think life is going to get even more interesting from here on. 

    I wonder where I'll be a year from now...

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    Sunday, July 06, 2008

    Covent Garden

    I spent a few hours walking the streets of London yesterday.

    In my attempt to find Tottenham Court Road, I managed to end up in Covent Garden, somewhere I've not been before.

    I loved it.

    There was this talking dog. He just sat there, all day.

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    covent garden_8641

    These statues were something else. I've never seen anyone be so statue-like. Not even a hint of breath. In fact, I was thinking that they might actually be real statues, secretly put there by a human statue in the middle of the night when he got tired of standing still for a living.

    covent garden_8653

    covent garden_8644

    The volunteer. Why do we feel so pressured to grow up?

    covent garden_8626

    This opera singer was amazing. I've found myself becoming increasingly attracted to male opera singers. Good job *Twinkle*gets here soon, don't want all that wedding planning going to waste.

    covent garden_8613

    covent garden_8582


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    Cloud tales

    The main line that heads out due West from London towards Swansea provides great views of the English countryside.The tracks are often raised on big beds of gravel, providing us with superb views across the surrounding fields. The first cut of this season’s hay has just been made, leaving doogle bales dotting the landscape. Moo cows, meahs and neigh-neighs also feature prominently - I wonder why we need so many horses?

    But it’s the sky that really grabs the attention. Sunny, with rainy patches, it’s essentially blue, but with two distinct layers of periodic cloud. High-up there’s the seemingly motionless candy-floss cumulous grand-daddies, and below them, a few hundred metres from the ground, wispy floaty teenage clouds. The speed of the train and relative distance of the two types creates a dramatic sense of the different attitudes towards life these two types take. The teenagers are playing games with their shadows, their favourite being “How many cows can you make sit down?” The Grand-daddies meanwhile have long since said goodbye to those days of racing across the landscape. They’re happy to sit in their armchairs, smoking their pipes and sending great puffs up into to sky above them. Looking down, they share stories of the time that they were young whippersnappers, mischievously relieving themselves on the shoppers in Chippenham and Bath. They see the train I’m on speeding to the West; “remember in the old days the trains would send up those great clouds of smoke! Used to make me cough they did. Never did get any compensation from the environment agency”.

    That’s the kind of thing clouds talk about. That and the group on the social networking site Cloudbook that has secretly formed to organise a mass protest against pollution over the Beijing Olympics. They’ve heard that the humans are planning to use rockets loaded with chemical warheads against them, but the leaders of the movement are steadfast in their resolve. They will not disperse.

    Ho hum. Here’s Bristol. Looks like rain.

    Image: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton on Flickr

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    Friday, July 04, 2008

    Degree result

    information commons exterior_8500
    Google Alert: Information Commons, Sheffield (tee hee)

    I worked out what I got for my degree the other day. Whilst grades aren't officially published until the 14th July, with the results for all but one of modules (language) having been announced, it's not hard to tot it up. I've guessed my mark for the language module based on my previous results and my feelings about how it went (it went very well!)

    I got a 2:1, approximately 66~68%. That's what I was aiming for, so I'm happy with that. Well done me. 5 years of study have paid off.

    I remember Earl Nightingale talking about how we react to reaching our goals. Reaching goals doesn't give us half the sense of satisfaction / happiness as working towards them does, and I'd say that that's certainly the case here. I have this idea that I ought to 'feel more' about this result, but the truth is that the real achievement was in doing it. For me, the happiest days were those when we were in class, doing stuff. Those were the days of real accomplishment.

    After all, what do we do when we reach a goal? Set a new goal! I find that knowing that now helps me deal with the unexpected a little better than I did in the past. With no goal ever being 'ultimate', if plans do go eschew, I know that that's ok, that the goal was just a guide, and really it's all about the journey.

    That was certainly the case with my degree. It's all been about the journey.

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    Inverse vapour trail - I've never seen one of these before

    Today was my last day working at CILASS. The morning was spent with a group of staff from Hong Kong who are on a study-space research trip. That was good - the vegetable samosas were particularly tasty, and I'm always a sucker for those cheese and tomato stick things. :-p

    This afternoon I created a few screencasts for next year's webgroup (is Screenflow the sexiest Leopard app in the world or what?!), and spent some time with Emmy. I like hanging out with her (I mean, how could I not - she has the same Macbook as me!). After that it was off to the pub, drinks on the house. I did enjoy that. Such a groovy bunch those CILASS folks. I will miss them.

    Leaving the University Arms I was well and truly lost. It was the first time since arriving at Sheffield in 2004 that I've had no 'place' at uni. Two pints of beer had to be factored in as well: they'd made me feel desperately lonely and in need of *Twinkle* - confirmation that not drinking has possibly been the cleverest thing I've done this year.

    Ho hum. I'm off to London tomorrow, staying in a capsule. Best get some kip.


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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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    Wednesday, July 02, 2008

    Downloadable Wedding Hats now online!

    *Twinkle* and Tame are happy to announce that their exclusive range of downloadable wedding hats has just gone live.

    These have been designed especially for our wedding guests by TGW Designs. Features include clean lines (to assist with cutting out), expandable sizes with no noticeable loss in quality, and recyclability. They are also nice and light, and can be easily duplicated should you suffer from What-if-i-lose-my-hat Syndrome.

    Hats can be downloaded from the online Wedding Hat Shop at

    Samples of available hats

    "My head is a birdbox" hat

    hat of love


    Midnight Blue thinking hat

    congrats hat

    "I've got a head full strawberries" hat