Thursday, 31 August 2006

We’re going the zoo, zoo, zoo...

So, been away for a while, but am back now. First things first, should get the ‘gazette’ stuff over and done with first, so congratulations and felicitations to my father, who celebrated his sixty-something birthday by visiting the village of Goosnargh in Scotland, a town with great family connections (and, indeed, connections with anyone who has read The Meaning of Liff), so well done you. Also, not six days later, the Guru celebrated her something-something birthday, we celebrated that by eating curry in Nishi Kawaguchi, well known for its large, non-Japanese population, most of whom work in the ‘pink’ trade, as it is sometimes affectionately known. In fact walking back through the town after eating the aforementioned curry we wandered across a sort of cross roads that seemed to have about half a dozen slightly disreputable persons standing in the corners, almost as if they were about the re-enact the climatic scene from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, where Clint, Tuco and Angel Eyes face off in the cemetery. Actually, with a toddler in a pushchair it could have been the Odessa Steps scene from Battleship Potemkin, but I could be heading towards pseud’s corner quite quickly, so had better stop. Anyway happy birthday to parental and guru.

Last week was off and, for the most part, was devoted to studying. This was a good thing as I am now nearing the end of this damned course. About 11,500 words have been written and rewritten, so only about 8,500 to go, but I’m quite happy with most of those 11,500 done so far, though I must admit to being a bit worried about the rest. But what the hell, it will all be over by Christmas! (now where have we heard that before…?) although really it will all be over by the end of November, which is even better. However what we also did was spend a long weekend with the in-laws who live down Chiba way, as I may have mentioned. Their place is very much more ‘in the countryside’ than us here in Kawaguchi, so the air was clear and the heat and humidity milder, which was pleasant indeed. They also live quite close to Chiba Zoo, so we went there for the day.

Now I must admit that I am not a great fan of zoos at the best of times and I’m afraid that Chiba Zoo isn’t very close to ‘the best of times’ at all. Quite far from it really. But they do have what they called a ‘Kids Zoo’, which I suppose is what you would more likely know as a petting zoo, or somewhere where the kids can get closer to some animals, touch and stroke them if they wish and watch them doing lots of poos. So that was where we headed so the little ‘un could commune with nature a little more than he has. But of course he wasn’t reallt that interested. This might have had something to do with the fact that the animals weren’t really interested in him, who knows. But we went into the sheep and goats enclosure at feeding time and he looked about warily as I held onto him, I thought about letting him go, but figured that he would grab and twist handfuls of fur/ear/leg/anything, so discretion meant I kept a reasonably firm hold on the young chap. And so the animals sort of swarmed around our legs and he watched them go by, and they ate leaves and then he tried to wander off. I think he enjoyed it as he point at a few things and make noises, but then again he does that for most things. In the kids zoo bit we also got to look at pigs, horses, ducks and cows, so all very domesticated, but also parrots, prairie dogs and penguins, which makes me think the zoo couldn’t quite decide what to do with animals that start with the letter ‘p’, so put them in there. The most fun thing in the kids zoo, for some reason, was the big washing sink and taps, which the little ‘un thought was the best thing he had seen in ages and so kept wanting to go back and wash his hands, something he never does at home – odd that.

The rest of the animals in the zoo seemed pretty sad and listless, sitting around and not doing too much. We saw an old elephant, camels, giraffes (who did seem quite animated), kangaroos, a water buffalo, monkeys and baboons and a stately emu. But the best thing was actually when we got home. We had taken some wooden toy animals with us and when we saw an animal for which we also had a toy, we made great play of showing them together, making the noises and generally trying to get the youngster to realise that the toys were representations etc. So, when we got home he got the bag of animals and started to show them to his grandparentals, but only picking out the ones we had seen earlier that day. This impressed us no end and, whilst it may appear a little dull, was fascinating to watch him and the development of his cognitive reasoning, or something.

Other news is that we are now mobile with the youngster. Being a big urban megalopolis (remembering my GCSE geography – the others being Boswash, Chipitts and Sansan, if you’re interested (well, they were in 1989, could all have changed now)) there isn’t too much piint having a car, but you’ve got to have a bicycle. In Japan these are often known as mamachari’s, or mama chariot’s, as they are used for carting kids about to and from shops, clinics and the like. Anyway we purchased a brand new Bridgestone contraption with a built baby/toddler seat over the front handlebars (specially designed by NASA scientists to be in the optimum load bearing/centre of gravity position, or something), and a mighty fine ride it is. When you try and manhandle the thing it feels like it weighs a quarter of a ton, but once you get one, that passenger is on too, it is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre, and with three gears one can fairly race along as well. So taken with it was I that I took the little ‘un out for a spin and we ended up at the water park about 40 minutes away – on our first trip! He seemed to enjoy it, which is the important thing, and not object too strongly to wearing a baby skid-lid (which, it comes as no surprise, are mystifyingly scarce in Japan, even though mothers everywhere take their kids, everywhere, by bike. I don’t wear a helmet, but I’m buggered if I’m going to let my son on a bike without one. But then again, this is a country where kids routinely stand on their father’s laps, or on the passenger side seat, when being driven in cars, so there you go, I suppose).

And now I’m back to work – and what a joy that is...

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