Monday, 26 April 2004

er... stream of consciousness time

All a bit quiet this week and have not had the kind of 'ah, that will be good to write about in the blog this week' type thoughts that often fill my long commute to and from work. This could be because by brain is gearing down for Golden Week, which starts on Thursday and lasts, luckily for the name else it would be entirely inapt, for a week. Am sure the brain is powering down as I tried to study yesterday for the first time in about three weeks, thought I'd better start some reading for the new module (not that I can remember what the new module is), but it made my brain hurt, then made it shut down as I fell asleep at the kitchen table surrounded by text books. This does not bode well for the rest of the course. Anyway in GW the good Guru and I are off to Kamikochi for a couple of days. I do not know why we are going there, or what we will do once there, but I have been informed that I must be present and correct at 7am on friday morning in order to get a long distance coach from Shinjuku station. Shinjuku station is a funny old place. It is one of the busiest stations in the world, with over a million people passing through it on a busy day, most of them with cricked necks from trying to look at signs behind them whilst being forced along in a direction they definitely don't want to be going in. I don't think anyone really knows where they are going in Shinjuku as there are so many bullet train lines, regular JR lines, subways, private railway lines, local and long distance lines that no-one can possibly know where they need to be. But the Guru, who has the directional sense of a compass on acid, can navigate through with precision and speed, a juxtaposition that is somehow right and proper. My father, on one of visits here, likened Shinjuku station at 5pm on a frday afternoon as one of the missing levels of Dante's inferno, which I think is about right. But I was a little naughty on that one as the Guru and I had left the parentals in Matsumoto (so they wanted to explore, it wasn't out of spite!) and when I arranged their travel back to Tokyo, made sure they arrived at rush hour on a friday afternoon - not nice, I know, but gave them a real taste of Tokyo life. And talking of hell, the 3 Japanese who were abducted in Iraq were finally let out this week (or maybe last week). But the weird thing is that far from symapthy and warmth and 'oh you poor things', the general public has actually been quite negative towards them, following, I think, the lead of this blog (see 12 April entry) in thinking they are really just a bunch of silly buggers. And the best thing about it is that the govt is going to bill them for the rescue! I think this is fab and they should do it more often. The govt is basically saying 'we had a fly a lot of people out to Iraq to negotiate your release, and then fly them, and you, back to Japan again. This cost a lot of taxpayers' money so we are going to get abit of it back - let's just call it a fine for being really, really stupid and not doing what we tell you'. The Japanese are well into this kind of compensation money. If you were to knock someone off their bicycle whilst driving your car, you would be expected to hand over a lot of cash as a 'sorry I bent your wheel' payment. Stranger still, if you top yourself on the Tokyo subway or a railway, the company running the trains will send an invoice to your estate for the inconvenience caused to the other passengers. So your family, wracked with grief, remorse and 'I should have seen it coming...' are then hit with a bloody great bill, especially if your spouse did the really inconsiderate thing by jumping in front of a train at 5 pm on a friday afternoon in Shinjuku. And of course now there are plenty of scams to get this compensation money. I once wrote...somewhere.. about these phone scams, well one recently happened where a chap called a late middle aged woman and said something like 'this is the police, your husband has caused a car crash and done some pretty serious damage to someone, if you don't want this to go to court, please pay 12 million yen [that's 60,000 quid] into this bank account right now'. And she did, not thinking this to be strange in anyway. And only then did think to call her husband to check. And course he was at work, perfectly fine, no car accidents in sight. So I think the Japanese have a very strange attitude to money - they will save and save, looking after the little one yens, but then if someone tells them to, or they feel in the slightest bit obligated to someone, they will give it all away with barely a murmur. Probably also goes to show why the Japanese never, ever hold doors open for anyone (er... the bit about not wanting to be obligated to anyone, not the bit about giving away their cash). I remember the main character from 'As I Lay Dying' by William Faulkner was dead against being 'beholden' to anyone. Central tenet of his being, and the book I shouldn't wonder. Hated that book, absolute load of old nonsense. But then again, I seem to remember I felt that way about most of the books I read for English Lit at A-level. Nothing like a bit of literary criticism to ruin a good book for you - thank god I didn't do English at university, which was once a plan. I might think I got slightly off the point there, but I'm not sure there was a point to begin with. But talking, as we weren't, of plants, the ones here are now a mixed bag. The success story is definitely the rosemary, which is healthy and hale. The basil is just tall and gangly now, with few leaves but lots of flowers. It hasn't died, as I'm sure some nay-sayers neighed before, but it is not happy. The lavender is fighting a rearguard action against death, a couple of the sprigs look as if they are well up for the battle, but the majority is thinking of suing for peace. The olive tree continues to sprout new leaves in prodigous amounts, but has had an alarming attack of 'leaves going yellow and brown at the tips'. This may be a lack of zinc so plant food has been purchased and dispensed to all pots and troughs. The tulips almost got to flowering but then seemed to give up the ghost, go pale and slowly fall over. I thought they might be drunk, as it sounds a little like I get, I don't really think so but am marking my bottles to make sure. Lastly the thyme and sage that was planted recently seems to have taken hold, but I am not counting chickens until the fat lady has made an omlette.

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