It’s a blog with photos on it. OK, I know that from recent posts you might think that it’s a photoblog, but that is more down to laziness in not posting anything than a conscious decision (I guess it’s therefore been an unconscious decision).
Anyway, what has been going on? Well, I ran another half-marathon back on March 11th (time 1h 46m 01s, so 4 minutes faster than the first try). This was, as date-noticers have no doubt noticed, the 1st anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, so what better way to commemorate that to run 21 kilometres with 15,000 other people? No, I couldn’t think of a better way either.
Marcus and the Guru could not come with me on this jaunt, closer to home though it was from the last time, as the Guru was feeling most leer, indeed I had been worried that she may pass the lurgy to me prior to the race, thereby ruling me out of the contest, but luckily I escaped its wrath (not so Marcus, who was struck down later in the week). So I was solo for this, but as it was in-and-around Saitama Shintoshin, an area I know reasonably well, and it seemed better organised than the Ageo race in November, it was easy to navigate. The course itself started of twisty and turn-y, then was essentially a big rectangle and a last twisty-turn-y bit at the end.
All in all it was a good race and though 4 minutes quicker it was not, for some reason, as enjoyable as the first one. And it made my left calf hurt afterwards and, for that matter, the front of both ankles, which may have been to do with the camber of the road. So anyway, running done for this season as I don’t really like running in hot weather, now it will be evening runs and weekend bike rides until the summer holiday when I’ll be able to ride into work, which is a pretty good workout as it’s 18km each way with a few hills along the way.
On to more recent events, last weekend I was encouraged to go to a park and play with fire – talk about reliving one’s youth…
It was the last Sunday of the golden week holiday and the good people of Kita-ku, next door to our Itabashi-ku (a ‘ku’, if you don’t recall, is the equivalent of a London borough) had decided to arrange some out-doorsy stuff in one of their parks – so off we trooped to Jūjo and thence to the park which was, interestingly enough, right next to a bid Ground Self Defense Force logistics base.
To be honest, when we arrived, it looked just like a park, but in the corner a few things were set up by, at first appearances, a hippy colony. However it was slightly better than that, a volunteer group had a couple of storage containers with stuff for games, ropes, bbq things and other stuff within. The first order of the day seemed to be stilts (harder than you might remember) and digging stuff, which was fun and got the kids muddy. Then one of the volunteers (who were all female), surrounded by kids, started trying to light a fire in one of the 2 fixed barbeques. As a man and former connoisseur of incendiary devices, it pained me to watch these attempts.
Firstly her kindling was all wrong, too compacted, and she was encouraging the kids to throw green leaves on the pile. Then she was giving the matches to the children to and getting them to try and light the fire – now I’m all for giving kids opportunities when supervised, but you’ve got to show them how to do it first! It was a windy day and the kids were all standing up in the wind, holding the match right at the very end (so no purchase on the lighting strip) and as soon as the match lit they panicked a dropped it vaguely near the paper.
After about 5 minutes (and ¾’s of a wasted box of matches) I could stand it no more…
So, we ‘fluffed’ up the paper, got rid of the leaves, broke up the large sheets of plywood board into small chunks with lots of feathered edges and finally I sent the kids off to find lots of small, dry twigs. Then we made our little piles and, with yours truly fully in command, used but one match to get things going. “Oooh “ went the kids as within about one minute we had a nice little fire going – at which point they all tried to dump huge bits of wood, charcoal and handfuls of leaves, small animals, siblings and napalm on said small fire. However I was now ‘the fire master’ so with a stern look in my eye I quelled the attempts and set about organising the kids.
So we had fans and these little bamboo tubes that you could blow into the fire without burning your nose – I got the kids fanning and blowing and then getting pieces of charcoal one at a time. In the end we got about 3 good fires going, one in the bbq thing and 2 in sort of traditional Japanese portable bbq pots and truly I was acclaimed as ‘my dad knows how to start fires’ (and hopefully so do a few kids now, which I’m not sure is a good thing, but children need skills).
Later a bunch of junior high school girls arrived and tried to start a fire in one of the pots – they did exactly the same as the volunteer lady had done earlier, again under her benevolent eye. Again I watched painfully for a few minutes before heading over to help. After a couple of minutes of faffing and undoing what they had already tried to do, I fetched a big, red-glowing lump of charcoal from one of the other fires and used this to start theirs – ‘ooh,’ they said, ‘what a good idea, who’d have thought…?’. What do they teach children these days? Not how to start fires, obviously – I think I will start a campaign to get Bear Grylls DVDs into all schools in Japan.
One of the things that was arranged for this bbq-ing pyromania was and introduction to tooth-decay. Apparently traditional, what you do is get a sort of ladle, fill it with water and then add some sugar. Then you put the ladle onto the fire and stir with a chopstick – water boils, evaporates and you are left with a sticky sugar which the kids can then paint their teeth with and, hey presto, more work for dentists; at least that’s what I think the outcome was meant to be. Anyway, the image I got from it was not of small children having fun but of small children practicing the best method to cook up heroin before it is injected – start with ladles and move onto teaspoons when you get the knack. Wonder if they had syringes in those storage containers…
And have now decided to start growing vegetables on the balcony – well, tomatoes anyway as they always seem expensive in the supermarkets these days and we seem to eat a lot of them. 2 small plants bought this afternoon, more updates as events warrant…