Monday, 13 December 2004

Time to come clean...

Spring cleaning doesn't really happen in Japan, rather they go for winter and new year cleaning, which somehow seems a bit more appropriate, out with the old, in with the new, that sort of thing. I know this as on the news this evening they showed the good monks of Tsuruoka Hachimangu, which is a jolly famous old temple in the old capital Kamakura, giving the old shrine (or maybe temple) a jolly good going over with their bamboo brushes, which is called susuharai (lit trans. sweep the dust). Of course it woould be far too sacrilegious (which doesn't look right no matter how you spell it) to suggest that the monks might like to try a more effective way to clean their shrine, such as using a big hose pipe or something, but no, a few bamboo leaves tied to the end of a pole have been good for a thousand years so why stop now? (not the same leaves tied to the same pole, I think, they were remarkably green and spry looking if they were...) This cleaning is big stuff in Japan in December and I suspect that every house, temple and shrine in the country is doing the same (though you'd be hard pushed to notice in this apartment). I suppose that traditionally the Japanese were able to to this all in December as the weather is so good. OK, yesterday was wet and grey and miserable, but so far we have been having a beautiful autumn and early winter. Mt Fuji has been on show for a month or so now, pollution notwithstanding, and so on the windy days it is standing proud and erect in the distance, capped with the usual white dome of snow. Having said that, the colours of autumn don't seem to have been quite so vivid this year, so who knows, perhaps they need a really cold snap to get the chlorophyll really into gear (or whatever it is the trees make to change the leaves - answers not required, thank you).

The Japanese are very free and easy with their temples and shrines, none of this "this here is ma church and I'll be damned all to hell if I'll step into any other" kind of nonsense. Luckily different shrines and temples are good, if that's the right word, for different things. Naturally you have your own local temple or shrine, where you do your everyday praying and the like, but say, for example, you want to do well in your GCSE equivalent exams, well then off you toddle to Yushima Tenjin and do a spot of praying for good luck, hard study and an almost fanatical devotion to homework. However should you want to glorify fallen soldiers and war criminals then only Yasukuni Jinja will really do, or, more peacefully, if it's a pregnant wife and/or a healthy and safe pregnancy you want, then the two of you better visit Suitengu in downtown Nihombashi, where no doubt we will be off to in the near future. Very laissez-faire, this attitude to religion in Japan, as I feel I may have written somewhere before, but it just seems something that they do very well here so it is worth noting again.

On other more mundane matters, I have have mentioned, somewhere, that assignment 3 of the masters was sent off at the end of October. This one was quite interesting as it was a good opportunity to have a go at the marketng department at work who are, essentially, crap. Indeed, in a somewhat bewildering move, when other departments are losng staff to cut costs, the head of marketing was recently promoted to deputy MD even though the MD doesn't think he's very good at his job either, which means that not only does he get a pay rise etc, but someone else has to be recruited to head the dept, meaning more cash being spent. Oh well, there goes another foreigner out of the company to balance the books. Oops, little sidetracked there. Anyway assignment three came back this week with a provisional mark of 73! Another 'A', which surprised me even more than assignment two. I say provisional as this assignment was sent off to an external examiner, to keep the leicester crew honest. Today it came back with a mark of 70, which though a little lower is still pretty damn good and I am more than happy and this cheered me up no end. (Which mark is the official one, I wonder, or is it both?). Part of the assignment is to make recommendations about how things can be improved, which I have naturally passed onto my superiors in the hope that they might take some notice - fat chance, I know, but you've got to try these things.

Assignment four reading is now well under way, this time about The Curriculum and its management. Nope, I don't have much of an idea about this one at the moment either, which is worrying as for the others I had at least some inkling of what sort of things I wanted to look at, if not a concrete plan. But so far with this one, nothing. I'm desperate for one of Terry Pratchetts's ions of inspiration to come hurtling through space and smack me in the cerebellum on the way to work tomorrow...(pleeeeaaassse)

The plants are throttling back or winter in a big way now. I found some mint growing wild near here and took a couple of cuttings which seem to have taken quite well. Indeed mint could well be the rocket of the herb world....ah...rocket is probably the rocket of the herb world, isn't it? Hmm, ok, mint is probably the moving upwards in a very quick manner like an intercontinental ballistic missle of the herb world. It's doing well, hasn't succumbed to anything yet and smells minty. My sage, on the other hand, isn't happy once again. Anyone got any advice about growing sage? Mine just seems to do quite well but then the leaves just start withering and going black, cue end of sage. Olive tree, like the mint, is doing well, with new growth and branches everywhere, thank goodness for the olive tree, tough old bugger, that tree. The rosemary sometimes looks ok, then again sometimes looks sorry for itself, still, it s grwoing a little, whilst the chili plants seem to have decided that winter isn't for them so they look poorly, yellow patches to the leaves, but hanging in there...just.

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