Monday, 6 September 2004


You thought I'd forgotten, but I have done no such thing! Click here for this year's guide to 2004 Talk Like a Pirate Day...

And just to get in the mood

Yesterday I left my land lubbing legs on the quayside and embarked on the open seas for an evening for rape, pillage, plunder and drinking. Well, except for the first three, but luckily there was plenty of the fourth to make up for it.

That's right. Every year we organise a great big piss up for teachers and managers alike as a Tokyo boat cruise compnay has hit upon a jolly wheeze. Punters appreciate Tokyo Bay, especially at night as it is all twinkly, which looks pretty, and it's dark, unsurprisingly, so you can't see the pollution, and also the same punters like boozing. So, get a great big boat, put as many people on it as possible, fill it with beer and then sail around the bay for a couple of hours every weekend.

And it really works. For only 2500 yen, about 12quid, one can join this boat and get pretty well bladdered as the price includes as much beer as you can drink. So I and about 70 odd teachers did just that last night. And the nice thing about it is that as the average Japanese person gets drunk, they don't tend to get angry or pushy and want a fight, they just smile and then fall over, meaning that everyone else smiles and falls over as well, though luckily not overboard. If you really want to, as it were, push the boat out, you can hire a private room on this boat, which means you get some nosh as well. But this seems a bit odd to me as if you do, you only get a little porthole and so can't see outside, so what's the pont, you may as well be sitting in an izakaya in Saitama. But some people do, and fair play to them.

The Japanese are really into their all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink deals (tabehoudai and nomihoudai respectively). I suppose for the restaurants doing them they can be a good thing. I remember a few years back a largeish group of us met up for the Metropolitan Hotel Ikebukuro's evening nomihoudai one holiday. Things got off to a good start when we arrived. The drinking was meant to kick off at 6pm and go for three hours until 9 (this was a really good deal), but on arrival we found that the cake tabehoudai was still in full swing, even though it was meant to finish at 530. "But we wish to drink ourselves stupid" we said to the head waiter chap, who suddenly started looking very worried. "Ah, very sorry, but these people still need their sugar rush and we must not disappoint them in their fondant grazing" he (might have) replied. So we waited. By about 630 they had finally thrown out the last of the cake eaters - can you imagine eating nothing but cake for 2 hours? Horrible, but hugely popular in this wonderfully weird and woefully toothed country. So then we got started on the drinks.

And it was fab, but they obviuosly weren't in the slightest bit ready for a bunch of foreigners being there. Other places in Tokyo have a reputation amongst foreigners as good nomihoudai places (like the Shinagawa Prince hotel, Monday to Thursday - that's the other great thing about them, often they are in really nice hotels on the top floor, so you get great views and cheap booze - perfect) and so the staff are ready for foreign-falling-over antics, but not the Metro, or at least it didn't seem that way to us. First up was the fact that we demanded to be watered for the full three hours. The waiter chap tried the 'we finish at 9pm' blag, to which we countered 'oh pardon us, but the deal is for 3 hours and we didn't sit down until 645 because you wouldn't make the cake eaters leave, your problem, not ours'. We were still sober at this point and more importantly coherent, so faced with this barrage of logic, they were forced to acquiesce.

Next we realised why they were being so wary. A Japanese couple who had come in at the same time as us, at 645 as if they knew they would have to wait, left after about half an hour. This shocked us all quite profoundly. A fixed price all you can drink deal that last for three hours and you leave after 30 minutes! Where is the sense in that? But more Japanese came and went whilst we were there, treating the place as if it were a regular bar. Very odd, but it seems as if that was the Japanese way. We, however, did it the English way (and New Zealand way as well, if memory serves), which meant getting slowly louder and after enough beer had been drunk, moving onto silly drinks that came in small glasses and had a much bigger effect...

I think the biggest shock, though, was the 'no having fun' rule. We repeatedly told off, not for the volume of our speaking, but for laughing too long and too loudly. 'Speaking ok but not loud laugh' was the rule. Then, speaking softly as we were, a jazz trio started up on a little stage next to the dance floor. How jolly, thought some of the assembled, let's a go for a quick spin (not I, I hasten to add, dancing not being a strong point). But no, the waiter chap returned and admonished the perpetrators 'no dancing on dance floor - listening only!' was his refrain, which even surprised a couple of the Japanese who had got up for a swift two-step.

I think it was then, at not even 945, that we realised that it was not to be, made our farewells and headed out into the Ikebukuro night. In the time honoured fashion of very drunk people everywhere, I think we then decided that we hadn't had enough so sought out another favourable watering hole, the Hub pub I think, stayed they for a while and then, somehow, I fell in a fountain - things are a little hazy about it all around this point but I managed to find my way home and then complained long and loud to the guru (who had stayed at home) of being abandoned by everyone else. Next day I was informed that I had said me goodbyes to everyone before wandering off, bumping into things/people and listing heavily to port.

And the best thing about it was the whole evening hardly cost a thing because of this great nomihoudai deal at the hotel. About a tenner or so, which if you're Japanese and only stay for 30 minutes and one drink is probably a very good deal for the hotel, but if 15 foreigners turn up with the express intention of drinking for the entirety of the alotted time, I think the place may soon have been out of pocket.

Oh well, we had fun anyway.

Getting Chilli

Yes, we now have chillis! The seeds that I sowed more in hope than in expectation in spring have matured into quite big plants and we now have two fully formed green chillis slowly getting bigger. Next step is to try them out. The guru says she will have none of this (good, home grown organic produce, whyever not, what could be healthier?) so it shall have to be up to yours truly to test the water, as it were. Further bulletins as events, or hospital reports, warrant...

And lastly

Happy birhday to golf-playing-brother, who is one year older today. Yaay!

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