Tuesday, 16 December 2008

(started in October)

Hmm, has it really been that long since I posted…

Yes indeed it has. Oh well, back now.

So, we’re still in the process of buying an apartment. As I mentioned below we’ve bought this new-build thing that is, I am glad to say, actually being built (I had a peek in the summer and they’d completed 5 of the 10 floors, or the shells thereof, including ours on the 2nd floor, so Marcus and I could go ‘oooh look, that’s going to be ours soon…’). The issue we’ve got at the moment is that we haven’t actually, technically, got a mortgage yet, as in signed a piece of paper that commits the bank to handing over the cash – we’ve signed lots of bits of paper that, in principle, mean the bank will hand over the cash, but not a contract. Normally this wouldn’t worry me too much as we’re not meant to move in until March or April next year, but in these uncertain times… well, extremely certain in the sense that the world economy is in meltdown and no one is lending anyone any money any more, we’re getting a touch restive that the bank won’t commit to the cash handover at the moment. It’s not that they’ve said they won’t, it’s more that they haven’t said anything for a while. Anyway, I’m sure it will happen sometime.

So lots of things have been and gone since I last wrote. We went on our hols en famille, which was nice. We went to stay with the Guru’s folks for a couple of days, which was nice, and then, as they live closer to the beach than we do, we moved from theirs to Kujukuri (that’s 99 Kuri beach for language fans out there, a kuri being an olden days unit of measurement, quite possibly equivalent to one grain of sand, or possibly an elephant, who knows?), which is on the eastern Pacific side coast (for all you geography fans out there).

(carried on in December)

It’s quiet, I don’t have a lot to do so let’s write some more of this.

Update on the flat buying thing, we have now signed a sh*te-load more bits of paper that, I’m glad to say, does commit the bank to handing over the cash. Luckily we haven’t had to decide on the actual type of loan yet, i.e. fixed for a period (up to the life of the loan) or on a tracker type thing, we have to do that in March, just before the whole thing is finished and we move in. obviously at the moment a fixed interest loan looks quite attractive as rates are so low. If we did that we could get something like 4% for the full 35 years, which compared to a UK mortgage would be pretty low. But a tracker would be somewhere under 2% and as interest rates have been astoundingly low for the last decade, and are getting lower, that is also attractive. The annoying thing is that we can’t change once we’ve decided, so going for a very low tracker now and then changing to fixed when the economy begins to pick up in a few years isn’t an option. I don’t know, I guess we’ll see when the time comes to sign, I like the idea of a really low fixed rate so I know what we have to pay every month for the next 35 years, but then again, it’s cheaper, of course, not to at the moment. I guess the key is when, in the next 35 years, will the tracker rate be more than the current deal on a fixed rate? Of course if I knew that I would not be doing this job, I’d be a fabulously wealthy financial consultant who didn’t need to worry about fixed/tracker rates of interest – oh the irony!

Anyway as I was saying we went to the beach. This was a great adventure as Marcus had never been to the beach before so was jolly looking forward to it. So, by various means of transport, not limited to buses and trains but also including feet, we made our way to One Pine Beach near Mobara, part of Kujukuri. It was obvious from the moment of arrival that the locals enjoyed a joke as there were, literally and indeed actually, lots of pine trees there. In fact it was impossible to single one pine tree out that might have been ‘the one’ as a veritable forest stretched along the coast. Maybe they just do it to confuse foreigners.

We were to stay at some ‘resort’ place, as they often thought of themselves, but all thoughts of ours were on the beach. Marcus was excited, the sun was hot, we could hear the waves and things looked good. So, the usual dumping of stuff and arguing about what to take to the beach, then off. Down the sandy road we wandered, stopping every few meters so Marcus could play in the sand at the side of the road – it kind of defeated the point, we said, as there was a huge beach full of the stuff just over the way, but you know what kids can be like. Then, as we climbed over the ridge, there was the beach.

I must admit it was a little disappointing, the sand was a kind of light grey, so volcanic, and to me that gives the beach a bit of a grubby look. Also a couple of large shacks sold food and assorted beach paraphernalia, but again on the dilapidated side of used. Still, sand and surf there were, as well as people, inflated inflatables, nary a cloud in the sky to soften the unremitting skin cancer attack and a stiff offshore breeze – all the ingredients for a pleasant afternoon at the beach.

So, beach parasol hired and emplaced, plastic sheet weighted down (for some reason Japanese will only sit on a plastic sheet on the ground, preferable a blue one, although if you have children a patterned one will do. I have no idea why, for example, towels, reed mats, woollen picnic blankets/spreads or anything else will not suffice, but no, it must be a plastic mat – go look at a large hamami (cherry blossom) or hanabi (fireworks) gathering next time and you’ll see. Weird) we hit the waves.

How as you’ll remember this was Marcus’ first trip to the beach and first experience with seawater so, wanting to keep things safe, we were very tentative. Tip toe to the shore and stand at the very edge, water just about to your toes, mmm, nice and warm. So far so good. So then we took a few steps forwards and the water covered our feet – at this point Marcus was laughing and jumping, thinking it all jolly good fun. A couple more steps and the water was shin height, again all good fun and Marcus with a big smile on his face. But then, two waves come together at right-angles to each other and seem to hit each other and Marcus at the exactly the right moment – the upshot was, well, an up-shot of water that went straight up his legs, tummy, chest and splashed into his face and lastly, his mouth. Cue PANIC!

Well, panic it was – it took him possibly 0.02 seconds to get out of the water and to the mat. Then the real fun started. As he was wet the sand clung to him – not good. We tried to brush off the sand but as you know that doesn’t work so and the towel felt like sandpaper – not good. Wash the sand off in the water? Not on your life. Ok, sit there and feel miserable – check. Now we need to go to the toilet – ok dad will take you. Ow, the sand is too hot – not good. Struggle up the beach, round the back of the shack to where the rudimentary toilet block is, think French campsite – breeze blocks, hole in the floor, smell – into a cubicle, no too smelly and nasty to go to the toilet here – not good. Return to mat parasol, repeat 4 or 5 times. Decide to go to shack to get some food and drink, sit down order some basics and a bottle of pop, cut to more whinging about hot sand, hot sun, sea water, toilets, beaches and life in general. State enough is enough and you want to go back to ojii-san and obaa-san’s house as life is much simpler there. Continue until parents realise you have been traumatised for life and beat a retreat to the hotel. Time spent actually on the beach during beach holiday = approx. 42 minutes.

Aah, happy days, now I look back on it.

Luckily the place we were staying in had an onsen, a swimming pool and various other rooms and attractions that meant that staying there wasn’t quite as bad as staring at 4 walls trying not to kill each other, but at times it was close…

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