Archive for May, 2008

Saturday 13th April 2002

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

This is from my diary from when we first relocated to Japan – pre-blog. Other entries can be found here.

Cameron had Thursday off so we could go and register as aliens – I have to find my way back in 2 weeks to collect the card, which will be interesting I expect. Then we opened a bank account while I quietly fumed about being a second-class citizen; bad enough that they asked Cameron whether I wanted a cash card, worse when they handed it to him saying it was for me! Then went and finished the furniture thing (they asked C if it was ok that I had chosen it) – we’ve ended up with a white suite with non-washable covers, which is perhaps not our most sensible decision but they were cheaper and we had little option.
We then wandered around Shibuya a bit – explored Tower Records, bought some CDs; went to Tokyu Hands and bought a kettle as we can’t move in without one!
Yesterday was busy for me – I sat in the lobby for the best part of an hour while they cleaned the room, did a small amount of work then headed to Hiroo to meet Gail and visit the western supermarket. Also visited a fantastic shop full of lovely things from all over SE Asia. Will be going back! Took an hour to get home on the bus and found an email from C asking me along on an evening out so I had to find my way to Odaiba. Big panic at Shimbashi when I couldn’t find the monorail. I asked a guard “Eigo-wa hanashimasu ka” and he looked completely blank, I could have been speaking Mongolian, until I gave up and said “do you speak English” to which he answered “no”! Anyway, he pointed me in the right direction and I got there OK to join the sararymen in their pub in Shimbashi, the same one we went to with Sara last year. Cameron is turtle-theory and I am clever-flower!*
*Translating our names into Japanese, sort of. Ka-me, turtle; ron, theory; Li, clever; sa, flower.

A book thingy

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Found at the kitchenwitch‘s site and a welcome diversion from the glorious combination of solo-mumming and work

(ok I changed it a little to suit)

(I seem to have rather a lot of these sitting in my unread pile upstairs)

I’ve read it
I read it for school
I started but didn’t finish it
I’ll never read it
Maybe one day
(Never heard of it)

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (will finish one day when I have time)
Anna Karenina

Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: A Novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
(Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies)
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs Dalloway
Great Expectations
(American Gods)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

Memoirs of a Geisha
(Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West)
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
(Anansi Boys)
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
(The Inferno)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse (shudder)
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
(The Corrections)
(The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
(Oryx and Crake)
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
(The Confusion)
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
(Gravity’s Rainbow)
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Wednesday 10th April 2002

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

This is from my diary from when we first relocated to Japan – pre-blog. Other entries can be found here.

We have a house! Hoorah. Went for a second look with Maromi* on Monday morning and we’re moving in next Monday – I think we’ve set a record. Didn’t do much else on Monday – had a walk down to Shinjuku and a look in the big bookshop, bought some lunch in the Takashimaya food court then did some work and had a swim.
Yesterday was busy – braved Shinjuku station at 8 am – not nice – to meet Gail for yoga. Yoga far more strenuous than anything I’ve been used to recently! Then we went for coffee, went to the tourist information centre, had a revolving sushi lunch (yum) and I came back to meet the furniture lady. Spent the afternoon picking furniture – actually quite difficult! She was determined I should have a navy blue suite, which is ok and I expect we will end up with it, but not that comfy. We’ll have to buy cushions! There were some things I liked as well that haven’t appeared on the quote – perhaps because I have already exceeded the budget. Think I’ll have to go back and iterate.

*Maromi was our girl from the relocation agency

Monday 8/4/02

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

This is from my diary from when we first relocated to Japan – pre-blog. Other entries can be found here.

Cameron has left for his first proper day of work – don’t expect him back for 12 hours! It’s a grey and misty morning – but it started grey and misty yesterday, too, and turned out lovely. We went and looked at a house first thing, then back to look at the one we’d liked best on Saturday, which we have decided to try for. Then we got a very busy train to Kamakura, which is on the coast south of Yokohama. Buying the tickets was slightly traumatic as Kamakura didn’t seem to be on any signs, but we asked a man and it was ok.
At Kamakura we walked about for ages trying to find the Daibutsu – big Buddha. We eventually did – it is big – and you can go inside it! Saw a man feeding some very tame squirrels and got shouted at by a small man who thought C had gone inside the Buddha without paying.
After a chinese lunch (sweet and sour chicken) we went to another temple, hasedera or something like that. Very beautiful grounds – arum lily ponds and koi, and a sea view. Saw some big birds of prey (must buy a book of Japanese birds) and thousands of statues of jizu, for dead children. Saw a young couple having a statue blessed by a monk (much chanting and banging of gongs), which was sad. Also a cave with statues carved in the roof and a little grotto with tiny statues in all the crevices.
We then wandered back up the tree-lined path in the middle of the main street to the main shrine, the name of which I forget but it has a famous tree – saw a wedding and a very large turtle. Poor bride looked most uncomfortable! Then back to the station and home, sharing a carriage with a band of kimono ladies, one of whom had blue hair to match her outfit.

Give us this day…

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Some loafy disasters this week.

I decided to see last night’s “unmissable” match as an opportunity to zip to the allotment – I occasionally do, once the children are in bed, but rarely without feeling some twangs of conscience at leaving the allotment-widower at home (even though I think he quite likes it). Yesterday, as official football-widow myself, no conscience. (And I’d be there again tonight trying at long last to get those very late potatoes in, were it not raining. Gah. Instead I find myself at home, another “unmissable” match on – this one causing much tension and stress – with a pile of ironing and a casserole to make. The joys.)

Left reasonably simple instructions regarding my lovely homemade bread: take it out when the oven beeps.

(You can see where this is going, can’t you.)

(You are right.)

It cooked for 2 hours and I came home to a blackened charcoaly lump smoking gently in the oven.

Today’s loaf stuck fast to its tin. (I prised it off with a pie-slice; only lost a small layer from the bottom crust.) They come in threes, right – so one more mistake then I can get back into making nice bread again.

On a nice note, I spent yesterday afternoon at the Bluebell cottage garden. Sadly camera-less – I have my hands quite full enough thank you with two small children and they have ponds – we had a lovely time admiring the garden then buying plants while the girls ran amok, then to the wildflower meadow where they really could run free. Mostly buttercups at the moment and absolutely glorious: up to M’s waist (T’s head) and what children are supposed to do!

7th April 2002 – email home

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

This is from my diary from when we first relocated to Japan – pre-blog. Other entries can be found here.

Thought I’d drop you a quick line to let you know what we’ve been up to as we’ve nearly survived for a week now! Helped I’m sure by the very nice hotel (www.centuryhyatt.co.jp). We are on the 21st floor and can see mountains (but not Fuji, we’re looking the wrong way) and lots of other high-rise buildings as we are in Shinjuku, which is the business district – the building next door is the metropolitan government and I don’t know how tall it is but there is an observatory on floor 45! Every morning hundreds of ant-like people stream out of the subway and into it, then they all go back the other way at night.
I’ve been taking advantage of the facilities with a swim and a sauna nearly every day – I could get used to this! Also have been doing some work (I’ll start properly tomorrow, I’ve just been doing little bits here and there) and exploring around. Only on foot during the week as the subway/train system was a bit daunting on my own, but we’ve been out and about this weekend so I’m quite confident I can go further next week. I’m starting yoga on Tuesday with a girl whose husband also works for shell – she is friends with Sara.
We’ve found a house we like. No problems with people coming to stay as every house we have seen as been at least as big as our house in Warrington. You can all come together! Fingers crossed we can have it and can move in quickly as I think we will feel more settled then. It even has a small garden (about 2 sq metres) with a stone lantern and an acer tree. Our air freight is in the country already but I have no idea where the ship is.
We’ve had a nice weekend (weather fantastic, warm and sunny) – yesterday we went to Ueno, which is a different area of Tokyo. We walked around the park (us and every child in Tokyo! There is a zoo in the park that is obviously The place to go on a Saturday) then went exploring the streets, which are narrow and very crowded with market stalls. Lots of bargains to be had although we didn’t buy anything. In the evening we went to Roppongi which is a strange place full of expats, but we were looking for the sports cafe so Cameron could watch Celtic win the league – we found the bar but had to watch Manchester United instead! Horribly expensive, even for Tokyo, so we didn’t stay very long. Then today (after viewing another house) we took the train south, theough Yokohama to Kamakura, which is a seaside town that is stuffed full of temples and shrines. Saw lots of ladies in kimonos and a wedding (you should see what the brides here have to wear!), and a famous tree. Feeling tired and a bit sunburnt now – might have to go for another sauna!

Saturday 6th April 2002

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

This is from my diary from when we first relocated to Japan – pre-blog. Other entries can be found here.

Well! We’ve been busy. Cameron went to work all day Thursday, while I had a nice day – did a little work, walked to Yoyogi park, around the shrine (saw a wedding) and back, and then spent a good 2 hours swimming and sauna-ing. Knackered in the evening so had pasta in the hotel.
Yesterday was spent house-hunting with two different agents. We saw one apartment we liked especially (though they have all been good). Then a swim and sushi for tea and another early night. House-hunted again this morning and saw one flat that was wonderful except had no outside bit, and a house that we really like and might go for. Found out that stick men arecalled Kevin*!
This afternoon we went to Ueno. We walked round the park – lots of children going to the zoo and people getting drunk under the cherry blossom. Only the blossom has mostly gone now; this doesn’t seem to worry them. Had fried squid for lunch, followed by chocolate-covered bananas, and saw some turtles sunbathing (“cameron” means “turtle”) then went and wandered round the shopping streets, which are pretty amazing. Very crowded. Decided we would find the pub “warrior celt” before we left, but failed – still, we had a good explore while looking for it.

*I can see some of my asides need explanation. All construction works, holes in the ground, etc are guarded by men with sticks. Sometimes mechanical men with sticks. They point their sticks to help you avoid the hazard as you pass. They are called “Keh-bin” or something along those lines

Catching up

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I was quite worried yesterday – M went to preschool for the whole day (9-5) and it was just looming over me. I no longer know what to do with just one toddler! What did I used to do when M was 18 months? She had been asking and asking to go, though, curious to know what happens in the afternoons (it turns out that they have sandwiches and play musical statues and it is just great), and I will have to get used to it in September, or 9-3 anyway, so off she went.

T and I actually had a very nice day. We took the bus to town in the morning for a quick coffee/babyccino (I know I was slightly disparaging about Starbucks’ babyccinos last time, but they are free which has to be a good thing) then to the library for “storytime”. Which, oddly, involved musical instruments and songs but only one story. The librarian recognised me and asked if Maggie was in school now, which is always gratifying and makes you feel like you belong (fancy remembering her name!), and we picked up a new book for M – see below. Came home on the bus, quick bite of lunch, then T went off for a nap in the car at the allotment.

I got loads done: dug a nice round pit, filled it with a layer of grass clippings, having watched Joe Swift do exactly that on GW on Friday and persuaded C to cut the grass on Sunday. Put the soil back on top, constructed a fairly shoddy wigwam (having left my string at home) and got the french beans in – alternate yellow and purple all the way round should look really good! Put seeds of both in between the poles, too, to hopefully keep them coming a bit longer. The PSB has flowered, apart from one plant, so I picked the last little shoots from that one and dug two plants up to compost. They are great big tree-like plants which entirely filled my compost bin so the other two will have to wait in the ground until it has rotted down a bit. Picked our first salad for tea – all the seedlings that were in the wrong place – side-effect of having a 4-year-old sow your seeds – plus a couple of pigeon-pecked little gems. Along with the last bits of broccoli made a very nice salad (there’s nothing like fresh leaves).

Came home to make some chicken-liver sauce for pasta then it was time to collect M and not a scrap of housework done!

Now, books. We’ve read the Faraway Tree series to M and she’s really enjoyed it; enjoyed the chapter-by-chapter installments (rather than a book you read all in one go) and the level is just right. I am struggling to find anything similar so any suggestions would be gratefully received. The librarian was most helpful and provided pamphlets and ideas; I came home with an “animal ark” book, which is really too grown up* and an Olga da Polga, which I think might be OK.

*I’ve read the first two chapters and we’ve encountered a son upset because his dad is remarrying: she is only just 4 and really more suited to pop biscuits and fairy spells.

Before our story began

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

When we first moved to Japan, although people had email they did not have blogs. It was some months before I discovered what one was – and longer before I got going myself – during which time I kept an old-fashioned diary on paper and wrote people individual emails and real letters on stationery. I’ve been meaning to dig it out and share it ever since, and as this week has seen me feeling quite nostalgic for Tokyo, I have finally tracked it down (to the drawer of my old desk, which now lives in the shed; not any of the sensible places I looked first).

So this is the first in a finite series of posts, the prequel, if you like, to turquoise and its archives.

Weds, 3rd April 2002

Well we’re here! All out of synch and dazed and confused – it’s 6am but as I’ve been wide awake since 4, I got up. C is still trying hard – but wide awake also.
Did little yesterday. Flights were fine but sleepless then some hassle at the airport about our baggage. Girl sent to meet us very keen. Eventually arrived at the (v big, very posh – huge chandeliers) hotel* and slept all afternoon. Managed a quick walk last night then ate in the hotel and asleep by 9. No wonder we’re awake now! C off to work today…

Thursday 4th

Slept better – had to be woken by the alarm! Which unfortunately went off at 6 as C is off to Atsugi today. I had a good day yesterday – swam and sauna’ed first thing then went out exploring. Went to a convenience store to try to get shaving foam, which I did get after about half an hour of mindless wandering! Took my breakfast to the park and ate it surrounded by the neatest, cleanest, quietest homeless people I have ever seen. Read a bit until disturbed by seven or eight big black coaches blaring out military music. V odd.
Walked all the way up past Shinjuku station to buy a power cable for my laptop (the one I bought doesn’t work. Bugger.) Pottered about, then back to the hotel to meet C – we had fried banana bread stuff for lunch then were collected and spent a couple of hours at the TGA** offices before going house-hunting. Saw three – the first was lovely though enormous (they are concerned it might be too big for us!). Would be perfect for the cats. The second was an odd layout with an odd atmosphere and the the third was ok but purple outside.
Back to the hotel for a quick sleep then away to Odakyu department store to buy C some trunks (loss of face when he went into the changing room with his shoes on; loss of pride when he realised that he is LL here, ie huge! Ha ha ha. My turn soon though I expect) and to eat.

*The Century Hyatt, Shinjuku.
**Relocation agency


Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Very fuzzy because of little fingers on the lens (and my mobile isn’t the best camera ever) but here is Tamsin having her first ever babyccino. Shortly after buying both girls new sandals: they are costing me a fortune!