December was a busy month, as might have been alluded to in a previous post, and as it is for everyone who has one (a December, I mean, though for some they are busier than for others, I suspect. Anyway). So at the start of the month I headed back to Blighty for a good friend’s wedding. Richard, who had once had the dubious honour of being my best man, got hitched to Lorna, his sweetheart of the past couple of years. I went solo on this trip, for a couple of reasons, one was the expense, which we decided was too great for what was quite a short trip back (and we will be going back in August 2007 for my cousin’s wedding, all things being equal (like being given time off from work, not guaranteed by any means now), and also because this was a ‘no kids’ wedding. This was the first time I had come across one of these, though according to friends they are much the common thing nowadays. Personally, this bothers me. When the Guru and I had the UK leg of our wedding in 2002 it would never have occurred to me to have a ‘no kids’ wedding, what’s the point? If you want your friends there, you invite them. If they have kids, along they come too. It’s simple. But not, apparently. But OK, if that’s what people do nowadays, fair enough, but what about if you are flying 5,000miles to see your mates and have no chance of arranging baby sitting facilities as you don’t live in the country? Tough, is the answer, it seems to me. And, for those who can arranging babysitters, not only do they have to buy presents for the happy couple, but fork out for a sitter as well (which in London, is eight quid an hour, according to the friends I was staying with. 8 quid! So for them, from 2pm to midnight, the cost was going to be something like 70quid! Outrageous that it costs that much and outrageous that they should have to pay because of this ‘no kids’ rule – it kind of p*ssed me off, this ‘no kids’ thing, as you might suspect from this rant. But really)
Anyway I was back for a week and managed to fill my time most responsibly. We had a big family Christmas about 3 weeks early, this not just for my benefit but also for my cousin who lives in Hungary, who was over with his Romanian wife for the weekend. That was jolly good fun, as one might expect from this kind of thing. Then I got to treat Golf-playing-Brother-and Family’s house like a hotel for a few days whilst I spent time visiting old school friends in Fleet. This again was most pleasant as I got to meet lots the (quite recently) arrived children of my friends, and of course my nephew Charlie. I fact one of the over-riding themes of the trip was kids; firstly mine, in that I didn’t get to see him for about 10 days and at times it was really difficult, and other people’s kids, which were everywhere (except the wedding, of course) and made me miss the youngster even more. But everyone seems to be having, or had, them. As I said all my old school friends in Fleet were kidded up with one, if not two, whilst the old university friends in London I stayed with had one with number two due in March. As I said, everywhere, but then again I suppose we are of an age where these things are happening. In London I also met up with an old work colleague who moved back to the UK earlier in ’06. He was doing well in that he had finally left the company and was now free-lancing, which in time honoured tradition meant he was living with his parents and not, technically, doing any work. “That will change” he said, ‘but not too soon’ I thought. But anyway good luck to him in his IT endeavours.
The wedding itself was held at the English Speaking Union, which is at Dartmouth House in the heart of Mayfair. It was, as these things tend to be, a rather drunken affair. I seemed to spend all of my time talking to people, some of whom I hadn’t seen since the end of sixth form, so only about 15 years ago, which made me feel exceptionally old, as I mentioned in a past post last year (but I can’t remember where – think I might be getting old…) The same of it was that (apart from the family not being there to enjoy it with me) I didn’t really get much of a chance to talk to the bride or groom as they were doing the bride and groom thing, which seemed to involve being nice to parents and worrying about stuff. I think I might have said ‘hello’ and ‘awfully nice to meet you’ to Lorna, as it was the first time I had met said lady, but I think that was about it (though of course I may have said an awful lot more, but due to the rigours of alcohol and jet lag, I might have forgotten (this has happened before), but no one mentioned anything to me the next day, which is always a good sign).
Last but not least I picked up presents from various family members to do my best Santa impression and ferry loot from one side of the world to the other. I’m glad to say that, on knowing I was coming alone and that I would therefore be traveling light, my family did their level best to send me rocketing over the luggage limit on Virgin (to whom I once again doff my cap). Suffice it to say I went to the UK with once smallish case at under 10kgs (including presents for all them), but returned with my original bag as hand luggage and a new case twice the size of mine and a whisker under the 23kgs limit (and that was with leaving a present for me behind!). And last of all, on getting back and lugging all this stuff half way across the world, I got back to find the lift in the apartment building was being repaired so I had to drag everything up six floors to finally get home. (oh, and I lost the backgammon this year in a strangely disappointing series).
Was something I enjoyed with the Guru and the Youngster on, and this night come as a surprise, December 25th, as unlike some I don’t have to work (though the bit of work from getting back from the UK to finishing for the holiday was hellishly busy, possibly on account of a promotion that has somehow seen me end up as principal. Don’t ask me how.) Anyway my last day was Saturday 23rd and then it was a frenzy of shopping, eating and drinking, not necessarily in that order, until, well, today really. For Christmas day we awoke early-ish, I think the youngster did us the honour of sleeping in until at least 630am (not because it was Christmas, it is just his time of arising). Breakfast was followed by presents and, as is traditional, the young ‘un had a huge pile, the guru had an impressive pile and I had, well, pitiful in comparison does spring to mind (of course this was my fault as I had not told anyone what I wanted – I didn’t think that was the point...) anyway the youngster got, in no particular order, a Mr Potato Head, a puzzle, lots of books and DVDs, a noisy fire engine, a toy helicopter (his favourite word at the moment is he-buta, which is his attempt at this obviously tricky word) and a load of other stuff as well.
Then it was to the park to run around a bit and climb up and then slide down the slide. This was in order to tire the little fella’ out a bit as he goes a bit stir crazy if he doesn’t burn off a few kilowatts a day.
(I know I don’t, as a rule, put photos of him of the blog anymore, but it’s Christmas (or was) so a special exception can be made).Then it was back home for yours truly to cook the Christmas lunch. This was, I must admit, done with a certain panache and aplomb, with the three of us sitting down to a veritable feast at 2 o’clock. There was, however, a slight cock-up – the plan of using up a bit of the youngster’s energy worked so well that as we sat down to eat the excitement of the whole day got to him and, no longer able to contain himself, he fell asleep, as you can see from the two photos below:
And so we ate in peace and quiet, which is always nice, mainly as it is so uncommon, and then spent the rest of the day feeling bloated. We even had a Hollywood blockbuster to watch (Pirates of the Caribbean, I think), but as I had already seen this on the plane to the UK (and didn’t think that much of it) I only had half an eye on it. (In fact all of the three films I watched going to the UK were sequels: Pirates etc 2, Mission Impossible 3 and X-Men 3, all of which weren’t that much kop at all. I saw Cars on the way back, which was better, but I wasn’t exactly bowled over with the choice).
Boxing day it rained all day, so we just sat around eating and drinking again. All this lead to the New Year, which for Japanese involves a shit load of cleaning. Japanese don’t do spring cleaning, they do new year cleaning, which makes sense I suppose as the weather is usually nice and it is a grand idea to start the new year with a clean house. That this cleaning took three whole days, for an apartment the size of ours, doesn’t really bear thinking about. But we managed it and for ringing in 2007 we had the cleanest apartment in Japan (I am willing to bet). The night itself was a low key affair, as they tend to be when you have kids, I suspect. After which we went to spend a couple of days with the Guru’s folks to let them look after the youngster for a few hours each day so we didn’t have to! This was pleasant and I got to do what always makes me feel it’s new year and watch the Hakone Ekiden (kind of like a long distance relay race from Tokyo to Mt Fuji and back for university athletics teams (men only) over January 1st and 2nd, very traditional and always makes me feel the new year has begun, especially if I watch it at the Guru’s folk’s place).
And that was about it. More shopping was to be done, including a couple of new suits and a new oven, more visits to the park and the riverbank to use up that energy (so successful was this that on a couple of occasions the little ‘un actually fell asleep around 7pm, giving us a couple of evenings together for the first time in ages. We watched more films in the last week than we have in the past two years!) And so tomorrow it’s officially back to work, though I did have two days last week, but I don’t feel they count as today is a national holiday. Great!