Monday, 28 March 2005

A close shave

A quiet week again this week. Well, quiet at home whilst work has been busier than ever. The new academic year starts in April so this time of year is always grab-a-new-student time, which essentially means we open on one Sunday a month to cunningly entice prospective students into the schools before telling them they cant have lessons on a Sunday as we don’t usually open. This meant that Sunday last week I was in one of the offices, making myself visible to keep up the morale of the troops (as in, it’s a shitter that I have to give up my day off, but at least the managers do as well), not sure if it worked, but there you go. Not only that but Monday last week was a national holiday – vernal equinox, don’t you know – and I had to work again! Schools were all open but for those in the office it was meant to be a holiday except for a token presence. Guess who got to be the token?

This led to a very real and very alarming crisis. As mentioned the schools were all open and so I was in the office in case there were any sick teachers out there who needed cover arranged for them. Unluckily there were more sickies (and some were definitely sickies) than there were possibilities on the sick teacher standby list, especially after one teacher who knew she was on standby was resolutely uncontactable. The crisis that this created was that I had to go out to teach, something that has not happened for a long time…

I thought it was going to be for the whole day as no one seemed able to fill in, which would have made it a very long day indeed, however at the last minute the district manager (whose day off it was) called the office. It was this manager’s teacher that was uncontactable so he manfully stepped into the breach and did the day (even though I told him not to as it was his day off, but he wasn’t having any of it). So in the end I only had to teach one lesson, 40 minutes with one two-and-a-half year old kid (the other two in the lesson didn’t show, obviously off enjoying themselves somewhere else – pagan rituals to welcome the sun, perhaps?). Actually, the lesson was only about 30 minutes as the first 10 were spent trying to coax the kid away from his father, but once we got going it was kind of fun and good practice for my forthcoming parenthood (except in this cse I could give the kid back after 40 minutes, something I guess I won’t be able to do with my own). Still, it was most strange being back in a classroom and teaching as it is something I haven’t had to do for a good long while now, but the old magic seemed to be there and kid enjoyed himself, and so did I really, so all were happy in the end.

Anyway, as I worked on Sunday and bank holiday Monday last week, I took today off as a day in lieu, and wouldn’t you know it, it has chucked it down with rain all fecking day.

But this has meant that a) I got some study done and b) played more GT4. The study is going well-ish for this assignment. This one is all about the curriculum and monitoring of teaching and learning, which is quite possibly as boring as it sounds, but it should be done by the end of April, from where I shall take a six month break for the birth of the baby.

Oh how I am looking forward to weekends without having to think about studying.

That will be 2 years done and one more to go, which will be essentially a year to do the dissertation (including six months of a research methods module which, I am sure, require me to study statistics, something I do not what to do as it is all bollocks). Quite how I am going to gird my loins to restart studying in October, I am not sure. One method I have put in place is paying the final year fees now, rather than when I resume, as hopefully this will spur my return (as, if I don’t finish the course, I will have to repay all the contributions the company have made to the fees, something again I do not want to do as we won’t have the money).

More important than all of this, though, is getting through GT4. I’m now up to 67% completed and have cracked the professional hall. Now all is left are the rest of the endurance races (three done so far) and the extreme hall, which doesn’t look too extreme as I’ve already done one of the series and it was a piece of piss. Still, not looking forward the three 24 hour races as I had a quick go and there doesn’t seem to be anyway to save during the race, even the pit stops are only for tyres and fuel, so unless there is some kind of time delay so that after a set number of hours it gives you the option, I think it might be a 24 hours all in one go. And that’s just silly. And night driving at the Nurburgring, that’s just silly as well.

Just one amusing story in the paper this week. Apparently a well-known economist was found guilty and fined on Wednesday for using a small mirror to try to look the skirt of a high school student at a railway station in Tokyo last year. But what made me smile – not the case, I hasten to add – in the report was that according to the Yomiuri, prosecutors had been demanding a “4-month prison sentence and forfeiture of the mirror”. I mean, forfeiture of the mirror, what’s that all about? Are mirror vendors all over Japan going to be notified about this bloke? His picture circulated and name whispered in certain circles? Just seems a somewhat strange thing for a state prosecutor to ask for, if you ask me.

Monday, 21 March 2005

From one natural disaster to another...

Been a quiet week, on the whole, the last week. Trying to cast my mind back for some of the odder stories to make themselves heard, but nothing seems to spring to mind. Baby stuff is going along without much of a hitch (this week!). Young Fuu chan seems to be moving around an awful lot, which is still one of the weirdest sensations I have ever felt – an unborn baby, moving around inside another person, it is such an everyday thing to hear but such a weird and wonderful thing to actually feel. I am not, I suspect, the first man to think this way (or, indeed, the first man to have a mental image of the first alien movie when he has his hands of his wife’s stomach).

A couple of months ago a parental warning was issued about the high pollen count that was poised to sweep the valleys of japan, bringing hay fever upon the unsuspecting inhabitants. “Ha” I scoffed, “the advanced and on the ball Japanese news media have made nary a mention of this” was my considered response, forgetting, it would seem, by usual scepticism of the aforementioned Japanese news media. Well the pollen hit with a vengeance this week, liberally dusting the entire Kanto plain with its yellow sneezing powder. This is all due, apparently (according to Alex Kerr in Dogs and Demons), to the Environmental Ministry (to whom we show deference and respect), who decided that natural deciduous woodland was not in any way ‘a good thing’ as it wasn’t made of concrete. So at first they decided to cut all the trees down and replace with greyness, but even the average Japanese bod thought this a tad too much and complained, just a little, so the Ministry rethought their plan and planted miles upon miles of cedar trees. Their thinking was, I suppose, not bad for the time, as they believed that they could maintain the forests and sell the wood (Japanese houses are, as mentioned elsewhere, 90% wooden in their construction, much like a Keanu Reeves role in a movie). But of course, as this is Japanese wood it is far more expensive than imported wood (which isn't nearly as good), illegally cut down from virgin rainforests in Indonesia, so no one would buy it.

So, combine one part huge numbers of cedar trees planted all over the mountains encircling the Kanto plain with two parts exceptionally hot summer in 2004, add a dash of springtime and mix thoroughly with the spring winds and, et voila, you have a hay fever epidemic that is 30 to 500 times worse than anything Japan has ever experienced before, depending on what news you read. Not really a natural disaster, I grant you, but at least a national commotion.

Me? Not a problem. Hardly a sneeze or a sniffle to be seen. I would crow or gloat about it, but I know that it can start within the blink of an eye, so nothing but sympathy from me. At a meeting at work last Friday a chap who had never suffered in his life looked as if he had the worst case of Spanish Influenza on record. The Guru, herself never been susceptible in the past, has been sneezing and spluttering he way through the week, no doubt worrying Fuu chan as she hasn’t got the hang of sneezing yet so always needs to have about 8 goes (or should that be go's?) to get the tubes unblocked.

But as you can no doubt imagine, if the only thing that I can think to write about is the state of hay fever in the nation, things must have been slow.

Two Japanese and one Philippine sailor were captured by pirates in the Malacca straights on Wednesday or Thursday. Now this sounds cool, full of action and derring do, that sort of caper, but no, they were released unharmed over the weekend and are now recovering in Penang, which is quite a pleasant place to do it, by all accounts.

Also a magnitude 6- (on the Japanese scale of 7) earthquake rocked the top of the southern island of Kyushu, 1 fatality and over three hundred hurt, but thankfully none of our teachers where caught up in anything unpleasant. Though with big earthquakes now having hit Kyushu, Niigata and Hokkaido (not to mention the Indian ocean quake and tsunami) in the last year or so, I am getting just a little antsy about living in Tokyo. I am a firm believer in the ‘if there are lots of small and medium earthquakes this is a good thing as it relieves the pressures building up underground’ school of misplaced optimism, but even my usually sunny outlook is getting just a tad worried about all this seismic activity. I don’t know if I mentioned before, but the big insurance company Munich Re produced a report recently of the most dangerous cities to live in across the world, graded by likelihood of dying horribly in a natural disaster.

Top of the list was, of course, Tokyo, with a get-me-the-fuck-out-of-here index of over 700. Second placed San Francisco came in with a glad-I-don’t-live-in-Tokyo score of about 160.

Oh well.

Monday, 14 March 2005

Play ball (or rather don’t)

Saw something in the news the other week which got me wondering, as these things often do. Apparently a few months ago, last summer perhaps, a couple of kids were in a park throwing a baseball to each other, the two kids in question were, I think, aged about 9 and 11, could even have been brothers, if I remember correctly.

Anyway at one point kid one throws to kid two but the throw is a wild one and goes off line and, unfortunately, the ball hits another kid square in the chest. Now, whether this was a deliberate throw at the younger kid, no one seems to know, but what happened next will not be appearing on Question of Sport anytime soon. There is a medical condition where if a something hits the chest of a young kid, there is a chance that the blow will act like an anti-defibrillator and actually stop the heart from beating (a bit like the experiment the docs used in the movie Flatliners to create near death experiences). This is exactly what happened to the younger kid and, as no one knew what was happening at the time, no one knew what to do and as a consequence the young kid tragically died.

I have every sympathy with the parents of the young kid as it was a terrible accident, to be sure, but the they decided that they weren’t happy with that and so sued the parents of the two kids playing ball for 65 million yen. Now I, of course, was not privy to the court case in full, but the other week the Judge found in favour of the parents of the young kid and ordered the parents of the others to pay the slightly lesser amount of 62 million yen in compensation.

Interestingly the Judge did not decide that the two boys had wilfully attacked the young kid or deliberately thrown the ball at him, no, he realised that it was a tragic mistake. But what he did decide was that the two boys should have realised what would have happened if they let their ball hit the younger kid and so should not have been playing ball in the park around other people. Now firstly they weren’t, apparently, breaking any park rules by playing ball, so no problem there. But secondly, how is a 9 ye old and an 11 year old meant to know about an extremely rare condition that affects a tiny fraction of the population? How are they meant to have known that a ball in the chest, at the right pace and the right angle, might stop someone’s heart from beating? I say they couldn’t. I didn’t know anything about it until reading about this case. I’m pretty sure that goes for the rest of the population as well. I wonder if the young kids parents knew about it either, until it was too late at least? But it is the Judge’s comments that really got me, as if it was common knowledge and the kids were knowingly and recklessly endangering other people in the park. All this serves to do, I feel sure, is make sure that playing catch in the park with your mates will now be outlawed throughout Japan, another nail in the coffin of childhood innocence and fun (although I feel sure it won’t stop wanker golfers hitting their silly little balls all over the show with blatant disregard to signs telling them not to).

From now on, I reckon, playing catch will be something that kids can only do under the auspices of a controlled school atmosphere and strict supervision that, as usual for Japan, takes all the fun out of it and destroys the whole concept of the playing for the love of the game. And then what happens if the same thing happens on the school practice field? Every year, it seems there are reports of a kid at so-and-so junior high school who collapses, or worse, through heat exhaustion and dehydration as their sadistic baseball coach has been making them run and run in the heat (and humidity) of a midday in August. It’s all to do with ideas like ‘chinonijimu yo na doryokuwo suru’ which can mean, for example, to practice so hard you piss blood. Now is that, I wonder, really a healthy way to approach sports for an 11-year-old junior high school kid? Again I think not as, at that sort of age, sports should be about enjoying yourself and having a laugh with your mates. Practice, yes; play against other schools, yes; be driven so hard by the coach that you pass out and are then admonished for doing so, no thanks.

But that is the culture of after school club activities in Japan, everyone does them and everyone does them everyday. I may have written this little anecdote before, but if I have, tough. I remember I used to teach a group of junior high school kids on a Wednesday evening, three kids, two girls and a boy, very nice, quiet as they usually are that age but more expressive as they came out of themselves a bit. Anyway, late one august we had a lesson and I remarked to one of the girls that she must be sad that the summer holiday was almost over. “Oh no”, she replied, she was looking forward to getting back to school. Why? I wondered. Well, during term time the law states that kids can only go to school for a maximum of six days a week, and at state schools only six days every other week. But, in holidays there is no such law as the law says the students should be on holiday. The law doesn’t, however, account for ‘voluntary’ attendance and club activities which was such that the girl was going to school every single day of the seven days in the week. Mad. But madder still was the teacher that turned up every day and demanded their attendance. Getting back to regular school, it would seem, meant the girl got a day off! Some holiday...

The girl was in the school band and there was a big competition in early September so all members had to spend all of their holiday practicing. If they didn’t they might not get a place in the band (pretty bad) or even might let the school down (infinitely worse). So that was it, for their entire holiday. And no one, except perhaps the kids, seemed to mind, not their parents, not the teacher, not the management of the school and not the organisers of the band competition, who just as easily have arranged the competition for later in the year. Mad, the lot of them. But they are not, I reckon, likely to foster a spirit of love and devotion to music, or any of the other activities they do, by flogging the kids to death. Far from it, but maybe it’s a cultural thing.

Tuesday, 8 March 2005

Right, let’s give it another try and hope the bloody thing doesn’t delete my outpourings once again.

How to be a parent #2

Yes, that’s right, not only one but two opportunities for the good people of Kawaguchi to impart knowledge so yours truly can attempt to understand what is required to be a parent in the modern age. And, to be perfectly honest with you, after my two lessons I am pretty confident that I have got it cracked – as long as being a parent involves holding and bathing a baby, and not too much else.

Saturday’s lesson kicked off with a video. This would have been a diverting half hour had it not been for the fact that it was exactly the same video we watched last week at the hospital. You’d have thought someone would have told them this, but no. Although to be fair, this week was at the local health centre whilst the week before had been a meet and greet at the actual hospital, but even so you’d have thought they might have liased a bit. Also, at this week’s instructional, there were a lot more people there, many of whom I hadn’t seen at the session last week and so they hadn’t been exposed to the sight of a middle aged Japanese bloke hitting a small toy drum on his long suffering wife’s abdomen before shouting loudly “moshi moshi... papa desu yo” at his yet unborn. But as explained last week this is fundamental stuff, apparently, so it must be done. Personally I could sit there smugly – ‘ha, been there done that’, thought I, and a lot more useful stuff I have passed on than “hello, it’s your father speaking’. [Disappointing on the suggestions in the comments section, by the way, only one from (I think) my father on his favourite subject – any more out there?]

Next we had a lecture from doctor who told crap jokes. I know he told crap jokes as he was from Osaka (and it wasn’t just that he was from Osaka, I could tell what he was saying for most of his speech, and not only did I understand one joke, he also asked me a direct question, which I answered in an appropriate manner (ok, the question was basically ‘and I assume you can’t read Japanese?’ when talking about baby books, but I answered with a quizzically raised eyebrow and a slight nod. Oh yeah, we bonded)). Anyway, you can always spot a person from Osaka as they always make bad jokes apparently – the jokers of Japan, a bit like the way that all Scousers are funny in the UK. The Japanese are well into their regional and national stereotypes and this is a great example. Another is the fact that it is impossible to understand the accent of anyone not born in Tokyo. Ever. Except someone from Osaka who is telling a joke. If an Osakan happened to remark to a Tokyoite that the weather was clement this afternoon, the Tokyoite would not understand, but if the Osakan made a joke of it, tears of laughter would roll. (Yes, yes, I know, I am stereotyping as well, point taken).

Anyway this doctor chappie was a good sort though I would have been able to understand a lot more except he spoke at 845,000 words per minute (I counted), though he could have cut out the jokes, spoken slower and then he might actually have finished within his allotted hour. But I liked him as when he came in he held up a yellow pamphlet that the health centre had prepared and said, in a few more words, ‘this is a load of old nonsense, I’m going to tell you how it really is’. Nice. His version of how it really was was basically a talk on all the nasty diseases and illnesses babies can get, which it seems is a lot, and then which books to read (the baby book by Sears, apparently) and those not to (Dr Spock is a real no-no these days, by all accounts), and then to take the piss out of the foreigner for not being able to read – but as luck would have it, allegedly there are now books with English words in them that I might peruse. Glad he told me that one...

Then it was upstairs for the practical.

But before we were to be let loose with the real (plastic, oddly weighted) thing, first, as last week, we had to introduce ourselves to the assembled. Once again I prepared myself for the sorry my Japanese is so shit speech, but lucky this time the assistant/demonstrator lady (the smiliest women in Japan (and no, I’m not being facetious, she really was)) told us exactly what we had to say, which was – what’s your name, and your partner’s, where do you live, when’s it due, what hospital do you use and what one thing do you want to do with the baby after it is born? Now even my woeful attempts at the language were up to this level, so I was on relatively safe ground. I’ll admit that I had trouble with the ‘where will the baby be born’ as I have always known it, Kafka-esquely, as ‘the hospital’ but it has a name as well (Saiseikai Kawaguchi Sougou Byoin, if you are at all interested – and yes, I just had to ask again, for the second time in two days).

Then it was onto the real meat of the afternoon. By the way it had been built up, since last august at least, I had come to think of the ‘bathing the baby’ experience as the most fundamental aspect of bringing a new life into this world. And how right I was. Support, it seems, is the most important thing to remember. Not support from the spouse or, perhaps the England rugby team (who, let’s face it, need all the help they can get), no support the baby’s head at all times. Check. Next most important thing to remember, when bathing a baby, is that you must lay a cloth over the baby, from neck to feet, whilst the baby is in the water – this will reassure the baby that it is, erm, in a bath with a cloth over its body. Failure to drape said cloth over baby will result in the baby self detonating, possibly, or even worse, splashing you with water as it kicks its legs... I have no idea, but my boss bathed his newborn without a cloth last summer and the results were not pretty.

Turning the baby is also tricky, if things are to be believed, and apparently this is something the Guru had trouble with during her parenting class (Saturday’s class was for dads to be, mums to be could come along [mainly for translation purposes in my case] but this was the opportunity for men to make fools of themselves). So when the Guru tried the turning manoeuvre in transition from front washing to back washing, she apparently managed to smack the baby’s head against the side of the bath on more than one occasion – she also, to dry the baby, held it over the bath and shook vigorously, something of a no-no again, it would seem. However yours truly managed the fiendish turning with a certain style and panache, so guess I’ll be doing the bathing come May.

Bathing is also, you must realise, a strict and potentially dangerous affair especially if the process takes too long, so there must be no more than 10 minutes from stripping the stripling to rewrapping the rascal. Why, I don’t know, but at least one wife was timing her husband with an expensive looking rolex to make sure he was within the Olympic qualifying time. Mad.

And that was about it. There was another table where you could practice changing a baby’s nappy (or diaper, for those that way inclined) but this just didn’t feel like the real thing, mainly because the one you took off was not filled with shit. This is odd as we were quite close to the Arakawa and it wouldn’t have taken five minutes for someone to wander down a fish a couple of turds out of the river for authenticity’s sake, but no-one had the necessary vision (or net, one presumes). To be honest it is quite easy to change the nappy of a three-pound plastic baby that doesn’t move, crap or make noise, I suspect the real thing might be a little harder.

And the last thing I got to do was pretend to be a woman with an enormous strap on. To make us menfolk more sympathetic to our womenfolk, we got to wear the pregnancy simulator. This consisted first of a velcro strap around the chest, I guess to compress your lungs and feel the shortness of breath that traditionally accompanies the later stages of pregnancy. Then the strap on itself, which was like a big waistcoat with a distended stomach and two large bumps for the breasts as well. This thing weighed 10 kilos (that’s 22 pounds in old money) and was an absolute bugger, especially when I laid down on the mat and tried to roll over, such as women might do in bed. Hard work would not cover it and I can say again (I think I said it before) that I am quite glad it is not me carrying the baby around for nine months.

So there we have it. Two lessons down and I am fighting fit and prepared as I’ll ever be for the baby we are going to bring into the world. Of course ‘prepared as I’ll ever be’ doesn’t actually mean very much and, unlike the plastic babies at the health centre, I am well and truly shitting myself...

Monday, 7 March 2005


f*cking computer with its f*cking touch pad instead of a mouse that also conveniently works as a f*cking 'back' button so when you have long, unsaved-as-you-checking-the-spelling posts it happily deletes them for you.


Might try and rewite it all again tomorrow, am far to p*ssed off right now.


Tuesday, 1 March 2005

Feeling better now, thanks for asking. So, onto the hospital...

How to be a parent

Or at least, that's what I thought Saturday's visit to the hospital was going to be all about. This had been a date in my diary for weeks. The sort of date that is right up with the 'if you forget this one your life will not be worth living, ever' sorts of things like remembering to turn up at the church on the appointed day at the correct hour. It wasn't the birth, not yet, you realise, just an introduction to the hospital and the maternity department. But it was important and I was therefore present and correct.

There were 10 couples there in total in a room in the hospital. As I've mentioned before, the hospital is jolly new and shiny, which means, as far as I can tell, the aircon system is a brand new, state of the art smart one that knows the precise setting for 'uncomfortably warm' and wants to share. Anyway the first thing we had to do was sit in small circle and introduce ourselves to everyone else and then the men had to say why they wanted to be present at the birth of their first child. Well, all the other men present had to say why they wanted to be there, unfortunately my Japanese didn't quite stretch to 'joyous outpouring of emotion' or 'this miracle of life', however my Japanese did stretch to 'hi, I'm Justin, I'm from the UK, sorry my Japanese is so shit'. To which all the other people in the circle intoned the standard response of 'ahh sugoi, nihongo jouzu desu-ne' (lit. trans. my goodness isn't his skill at the Japanese language superb! (nuanced trans. why can't these foreigners learn a bit of Japanese for a change?)).

Well, when I say 'all the men had to say why they wanted to be present at the birth of their first child' what I really meant to say was 'all the men had to say why their wives wanted them to be present at the birth of their first child' as it seemed I was the only male that wanted to go along. All the others, it appears, preferred to be out playing pachinko, or possibly golf. Not sure why this was, perhaps Japanese chaps don't feel they should be part of the whole birth thing, their job, I suppose, having been completed some 9 months previously. Or maybe they are all too squeamish, I don't know.

Anyway, next was a video. Again state of the artness prevailed here so this was no portable tv in the corner of the room, this was a tv projector thingy attached to the ceiling and a 2 metre square screen pulled down against the wall. All I could think was "wouldn't it be great to hook this up to the playstation? Imagine GT4 on this baby..." I didn't tell the guru this at the time, which I believe was a sensible policy to follow. The film was about being a man whilst your wife is pregnant and the importance, therefore, of talking to the baby whilst it is still in said wife so you can get to know it (the baby, not the wife, whom you are meant to know already).

Now I had known that this was important and thus have spoken to Fuu chan on a number of occasions, although they might possibly all have been when I was drunk. But apparently the baby can hear you very well from inside the womb and whilst it is easy to bond with the mother, they are attached after all, it difficult to bond with the father, so get speaking was the message. I have taken this to heart and the last two evenings I have had long conversations with the guru's abdomen. So far I have explained cornering techniques at speed (slow in, fast out; smooth acceleration; never brake mid-corner) and also how the superior techniques and skill levels make rugby union a far more exciting game than, say, football. Further topics penciled in include; lbw laws and a good forward defensive (shame that the Ashes is not until July, a live example is always preferable); how to make perfect roast potatoes and; a full and frank exposition on Mornington Crescent (without diagonals, I think, to begin with). Useful life skills there, I think you'll agree, but if anyone has any interesting or useful suggestions for things to talk to my unborn son about, please feel free to add them in the comments section below.

Then it was onto breathing and rubbing. These are two exceptionally important skills that a husband must bring to birth, lest his wife become unrubbed and breathless, I presume. First one, gently rub your wife's lower back. Check. Next, rub your wife's abdomen. Check (nothing to this rubbing lark). And that's it for rubbing. Hmm. Well, I now I don't want to get too big headed, but now I can consider myself a world class rubber, certainly superior in technique, I think, to the other fathers-to-be in the room.

Then came the breathing. Now breathing is, I feel, something that most people have had a fair amount of experience with and therefore would not really need help with. But of course I am wrong and should have known that from all the movies with birthing scenes in them. In those films the husband always seems to be saying something like "come on dear, breath like we did in the class" and the wife says "**** **** *** breathing! ***** ** **** ******** out of here!" so why bother? But bother we must. During the first stage of giving birth the breaths should be long and slow - suuuuteeee (in) haaaiteeee (out) repeat. This goes on for a few hours until the wife gets bored and decides to move onto the next stage. Then the breathing pattern must be he he huuuu, he he huuuu, he he huuuu etc. This stage lasts about 12 hours, according to the piece of paper with the pain graphs on it (no really - no anaesthetics in Japan, you're not a real mother if you haven't experienced the pain of natutal childbirth (wonder which man made that rule up...?)).

The third stage of breathing was the swearing stage, I won't print what was said there...

Then we went onto massages, which apparently I should be providing for the guru at every available opportunity. I didn't realise this and the guru hadn't asked, but now I am prepared and ready. But if you are going to give your good lady wife a massage when she is pregnant you must, it would appear, use lavender oil as this is a relaxant. So then the nurse that was taking the class poured the aforementioned lavender oil into the waiting hands of each chap and off we went. In the interests of decorum, thankfully, this was a trouser leg rolled up leg massage session. Also thankfully, whilst every wife had her trousers rolled up and every husband was elbow deep in lavender oil and leg massages, the nurse took polaroids of each couple. Nice one to show the kid in a few years...

And that was about it except for a quick tour of the maternity section. We got to see the toilets and showers that the husbands can use whilst the wife is doing the business. We saw the pre-giving birth waiting room. This is the one, I think for the 12 hour he he huuuu session and, as this is the longest part of the whole process, this room is the smallest and has no windows. Can't quite work that one out. Also there are two beds per room, so that there is likely to be 2 women in varying degrees of discomfort/agony at any given time. Why two? What are they going to do, discuss needlework? We didn't get to see the actual giving birth room as this is like an operating theatre, apparently, so we weren't allowed in. Last of all we saw the baby's feeding room where, for some reason, men aren't allowed to go. Again not sure why about that one, guess men aren't able to feed their newborns until 5 days after they arrive...


I took the day off as the guru's 30th week kicked off today and it was back to the hospital for the check-up and scan. And the best thing was that I was allowed in to see the scan this time. And see everything I did. Wow. Now I realise what it's all about. Those little photos you see from the scans that look like grey blobs? Well, if you see everything moving in real time then suddenly all the grey blobs make sense, you can see hands, eyes, the spine and the heart pumping away and you can understand what they are. And you can see a pair of knackers totally out of proportion to the rest of the body. Cool. So everything is there and it all looks good and healthy. Fuu chan is now about 1600grams and counting. All that left was for the dispensary to issue some medicine, which they did, but not before the women lying on the bench next to me vomited all over the floor. And the guru's worried she's going to catch something off me...