Monday, 8 August 2005

Well what a weekend that was...

Friday was my last day at work, so no matter now crap it was, and to be fair, it wasn’t actually that crap at all, it didn’t matter as by 6pm I was off and that was it for a whole two weeks. So Friday evening came and, as is the wont of people heading off on their hols (it wasn’t only me that was off, our office Obon holiday starts on Tuesday) we went off into Tokyo for beers. Now we wanted to go to the pleasant roof top bar that a few of us went to after the rugby that I wrote about somewhere, but when we turned up, mob handed with 10 of us, the rather sniffy chap on the door curtly informed us that they were rather busy and he might have a table on the terrace that could accommodate us, but not for 2 hours at least and that, should we come a-looking for service, it would be a sensible thing to book in advance. So much for spontaneity.

Of course we were now faced with the age-old problem. 10 people, in Shibuya, looking for a night out but more importantly, looking for somewhere that would let s in without a booking. Hmm, so we ended up at the Dubliner’s, not as salubrious a place as we had hoped, but it was open, cheerful, not exactly expensive and didn’t hold with nonsense seating policies i.e. it’s a “proper” pub so you can stand up, if you so desire, a feat of coordination seemingly beyond most Japanese after a couple of dai-namas (and, let’s be fair, after most foreigners after a couple more). Anyway, the initial set back apart, the evening was most convivial, beers were consumed, food was ingested and chit was chatted. All pleasant fun.


Saturday was hanabi season all over Japan and Kawaguchi was no exception. Hanabi, for those not in the know, are Japanese for fireworks (lit. flower of fire) and my they do love them here. Also, being far more sensible than, say the English, the Japanese have their firework displays in August, when it is hot and humid and just right for sitting on riverbanks and drinking beer, instead of November which, whilst historically significant, is bloody cold (I said ‘the English’ above as I initially thought that bonfire night and Guido Fawkes and all that was an English peculiarity, but on reflection I suspect that it might be a British celebration. I mean let’s face it, the Scots, Irish and Welsh are certainly going to celebrate someone who tried to blow up the English parliament – I digress).

As you Marcus is now three months old (my how time flies), we thought it was about time that he received guests whilst at home. To this end, then, friends and colleagues came over, bringing offspring as well. So not only did we have six adults over, but a 7 month old and an 11 month old as well – the 11 month old being my boss’s son (he bought his folks as well) who I am sure I have mentioned somewhere here before. One of the great things about our apartment is that not only does it overlook the river, but away to the right, over the railway bridge in this photo, we get a birds eye view of Toda Koen – Adachi-ku fireworks, all for free and, as the guru likes to point out, without having to be too far from a toilet. We are close enough to see everything, hear and feel the explosions and generally enjoy the atmosphere but, importantly with small ones around, far enough away so that the bangs don’t scare the shit out of the kids. So once again plenty of beer was consumed, food, lovingly prepared by yours truly, was again ingested and fine old time was had by all. The kids all seemed to enjoy themselves, there weren’t any tears before bedtime and, because all were so generous, I’ve got a fridge full of beer that I didn’t have to pay for.

And then there was a small matter of...

The Ashes – what a test match that was. Wow. I tried to listen to as much of it as I could, and certainly got some of the good bits, like Flintoff and Pietersen cutting loose on Thursday afternoon before tea (and Flintoff getting out third ball after tea!). Friday night was a bit hazy, but I certainly remember Flintoff wrapping up the Aussie first innings with 2 in 2 and then Warne bowling Strauss at the end of the day so I must have been compos mentis for at least some of it. Then Saturday night I finally got to turn on the computer after everyone had gone and heard Flintoff’s second bout of fireworks but then went to bed, stupidly, so didn’t hear the majority of the Aussie 2nd innings. But then came Sunday evening and, well, I think that took a few years off my life.

I blame Jonathan Agnew myself. During, I think, the first or second over of the day he turned to a fellow Test Match Special commentator (who was Australian – Geoff Lawson, I think) and said something like “well I suppose to make it interesting we would like Australia to get really close to the target”. Lawson was, of course, incredulous, as was everyone else listening, and said surely you want this over in two balls, like any sensible sportsman with an interest in winning would? But no, Aggers stuck to his guns, the silly bugger. But what a match, I was worried, really worried, going into the last few overs, but finally, thank everything, they did it with 2 runs to spare. I suppose it confirms two things, first that Australia aren’t going to give up without a fight (not a nice, Queensbury rules, jolly good fight but a real, dirty, no hold’s barred dog fight – and why not). Second, that England can win the tight ones. OK, it was close, but old England would have lost, their nerve would have gone, the resolve waned and Kasprowicz would have got the winning runs. But they didn’t, they had the character and the nerve and they won. The fact that Glenn McGrath wasn’t playing certainly helped but hey, how many injury problems have England had in recent series? (and ya boo sucks to Mr McGrath and his 'we'll win 5-0, oh hang on, it's England so there's bound to be some bad weather, let's make that 4-0' prediction.)

And then on Monday

Kool Kat Koizumi is fighting for his political life as the LDP, with shades of the Conservative Party circa 1997, decides to implode over the privatisation of the Japan Post. Just in case you were wondering, the Post Office here is, in effect, the biggest bank in the country, with about 3,000 billion pounds worth of savings in its vaults. This cash has effectively bank rolled Japanese economic expansion for years as, as far as I can make out, various governments took out massive loans using the money as collateral... actually that doesn’t sound quite right as I’m sure there was something about government bonds in there as well. As you can see, this isn’t an issue that I have been taking too much notice of, mainly as it is really quite dull. Until today when the vote on its progress was sent to the upper house after scraping through the lower house last week (I think). Anyway a fair few LDP bigwigs don’t like the idea of using all that cash so threatened to vote against their own party to scupper the bill. The Kool Kat said “do that and I will dissolve the diet and call a general election – we’ll let the people decide”. Bigwigs responded by saying “oh yeah, dare ya”. This was swiftly followed by a “double dare, no returns” from the Kool Kat, and the board was set.

So today the vote was taken and the bill defeated 108 to 125. His bluff called, what did the Kool Kat do? Good as his word, he has dissolved the diet and called an election for September 11th. Of course we now have a dilemma – I like the Kool Kat for sticking to his guns, having a few ideas and for not wearing a tie, but I would love to see the LDP toppled from power for only the second time since WWII, something needs to shake the politics in this country and this could just be the catalyst.

This is going to run and run, more reports to follow, if I can get my head round it. For now, though, thoughts turn to Old Trafford and the third test...


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