Sunday, March 29, 2009


A few days ago I was buying a bottle of wine when the woman in the wine shop asked me if I drank beer. She then rushed out to the back room of the shop, not stopping to hear my answer ("Not often. I don't like it much ...") and came back with a free sample of some new Asahi brew. Rather than argue about it, I thanked her. She was so pleased with her little gift it would have been churlish to refuse.

I very rarely drink beer. I very rarely want to. The Man does not drink, and I decided to leave the can in my bicycle basket until I met someone who would actually drink it. I did not want to take it inside the house. I am currently trying to get rid of things I do not want, not add to them.

Yes, I have been trying to do some spring cleaning before classes start again. Yesterday I did some ruthless chucking out. Usually my housekeeping skills are abysmal, which is why now and again I have to get ruthless. If I didn't, our house would fill up until we were jammed in.

As a part of my ruthlessness, I decided to get rid of some little USB speakers that were perfectly functional and had hardly ever been used. They were not bad speakers, but shortly after getting them I was given some other ones that were slightly better.

The rubbish collection system here has become intensely complicated in recent years. We have collection days for burnable rubbish, cans, bottles, smaller items of unburnable rubbish, newspapers, books and magazines, clothing and so on. For the largest unburnable rubbish ("big gomi") we have to call to get it collected, and pay a fee. I lose track of when to put out what, and I was wondering when to put out the speakers. Which category did they fit into? Wasn't there a small appliance category? I wasn't sure.

In the old days, when you had something like the speakers which you did not need but which worked, you had the option of putting it out on big gomi day. This was three times a year around here (monthly in richer areas). Big gomi included everything from old refrigerators to old futons to books. Everybody knew when big gomi day was, and certain people (foreigners, recycle shop people, other dregs of society) would trawl the big gomi piles, picking out the good stuff. This had the double benefit of recycling perfectly serviceable goods, and getting rid of stuff you didn't want but which could still be used by someone else.

These days, you have to pay to get this stuff taken away. An individual pickup time is arranged, and the recycle people (and other dregs) don't even get a look-in.

I decided it was time to bring back elements of the big gomi system. The speakers had hardly been used. I would not have to pay to get them taken away – they were not that big – but it was a shame to just throw them away in the rubbish. Instead, I put them outside our gate on a non-rubbish day, yesterday, in a clear plastic bag to protect them from the elements and display them to passers-by.

They were still there at eight this morning.

By nine they had gone.

When I went out to my bicycle, and noticed, I grinned to myself. The old recycle system still worked! I like it when things are not wasted.

As I put my bag into my bicycle basket, I noticed that the can of beer had also gone.

I tried to figure out what I thought about this. The bicycle was inside the gate, not outside, and you had to open the plastic cover on the basket to even see the beer. I am not particularly happy about a stranger coming in our gate and checking out the contents of my bicycle basket.

On the other hand, I did not want the beer and was going to give it away anyway. And maybe it disappeared yesterday, when I was parked outside the supermarket and I just didn't notice. But still, that means someone unzipped the plastic cover. What did they do that for?


Friday, March 27, 2009

And then there were none


A couple of days ago The Man told me he had been watching some video we took in Malaysia, a long time ago. This was news to me. I didn't remember taking any video in Malaysia at all, but if he had been watching it then I supposed it must be true. He asked,

"Did we meet your friend Anne, from New Zealand, there, in nineteen ninety-something?"

"I don't think so," I said. "Why?"

"There's a couple drinking tea at Johnny's tea stall, with you," he said. "I'm not sure who they are, but I thought it was Anne and her husband, you know, that fuzzy guy."

"You mean John? With a beard?"

"Yes," he said.

I thought about it.

"I don't THINK we ever met them there," I said.

He thought about it, too. We stared at each other, frowning and trying to remember.

"I met Anne in Thailand, but that was a long time ago, before we ever went to Malaysia," I said. "I'm fairly sure you've only ever met Anne and John once, in New Zealand."

"That's what I thought, too," said The Man. "But we wouldn't video strangers, would we? I thought they looked like friends of yours. So who were they?"

We thought some more.

"I should look at the video," I said.

"Not now," said The Man. "I'm going to bed."

I sat, trying to remember a trip to Malaysia on which we met a couple, friends of mine, the man with a fuzzy face. I couldn't. Surely that couple in the video must be strangers we just happened to meet.

I'm afraid to look at the video now, in case I discover we did meet my friends and I have absolutely no recollection of it.

I wonder if this is what our old age will be like? We'll sit around looking at the evidence of a fascinating and exotic life but won't be able to remember any of it.

It's a good thing I keep a blog these days.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Most baffling toilet sign EVER

Sanzenin Temple

I went to Sanzenin Temple today. This is not a picture of the temple. It is a picture of somewhere in the temple grounds.

It is a lovely place.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fat face

Last night I was thinking about dentists (a friend had a wisdom tooth out) and that got me thinking about the local anesthetic dentists use, and I started to wonder about something odd. Well, I think it's odd, anyway. Maybe you don't. Maybe you can answer this question for me.

You know how, when the dentist gives you an injection and half your face is numb, it feels like the numb half of your face has swelled to gigantic proportions? And when you look in the mirror it's quite surprising to see that actually your face is a normal size?

Well, that's what I started to wonder about. I think it's odd, and illogical. How does I can't feel my right cheek translate in our brains to therefore my right cheek is enormous?

I could understand it if the part of your face you couldn't feel seemed smaller than usual. But ... bigger? That doesn't make sense, at least to me.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Famous, nearly

Yesterday The Man and I came out of the supermarket, and when we started to walk to our (illegally parked) bicycles we noticed a man in a suit was standing in front of them. He was just standing there on the road, looking unnatural. Nobody else was wearing a suit. Also, he was foreign.

Then I noticed the camera crew. The Man and I both hesitated. We wanted our bicycles, but the man in the suit was standing so close to them it seemed rude to just take them away. Our bicycles were providing local colour. (Orange, with great big baskets.)

He saw us hesitating, and gestured that it was all right for us to walk past.

"Er, no, we want our bicycles," said The Man, and pointed.

The man in the suit laughed. "These?" he asked. Was that an incredulous laugh? I wasn't sure. Our bicycles are ordinary. I couldn't see any reason for incredulity.

It turned out that he was from the BBC. The BBC! Filming at our local station! Why?

We didn't ask what kind of program it was, but the suited man told us we could see it if we watched BBC cable at 8am on Friday and Saturday.

Or did he say Friday OR Saturday? I'm not sure. Nor is The Man, so we'll have to watch both days, to find out what has been happening in our neighborhood. SOMETHING exciting must have happened, surely, to attract the attention of the BBC. We can't imagine what it could be, though.

And no, it's not our bicycles. We rode off on them, and they missed their chance to be famous.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Economic stimulus

Today I met some friends for breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton. It was expensive, but lovely. One of my friends in NZ emailed, when I told him where I was going,

"Don't you know there's a recession on?"

I did not dignify him with an answer. Yes, I know there is a recession on. Does he think I can't read the newspapers? My friends and I are trying to kick-start the economy. I don't know how Japan would manage without us.

Later in the morning, feeling rather full after our strenuous efforts at economic stimulus, the group broke up and three of us went to the Hilton Plaza, where there is a branch of the Junkudo bookstore. This branch has been holding an English book sale for a couple of months now. We had all been to it before and were fairly sure they wouldn't have any new books in the sale, but felt compelled to check. We thought the books they had were all from their main Osaka branch – old and remaindered books they were getting rid of – or books they'd somehow acquired from bookstores that had gone out of business. There was a bit of a shakeup in the English book world in Japan last year, when Yohan went bankrupt. We didn't really think there would be anything new.

We were wrong. They had some new books in, and we all spent some money. More stimulus for the Japanese economy! (Not much, though, as the books were all 70% off.)

It was warm in there, and we were wearing coats, so after that we decided to have a rest and a drink in the coffee shop down in the lobby. It is an expensive coffee shop, but we hadn't finished stimulating the Japanese economy yet.

As it turned out, we were about to receive a little stimulus ourselves. When we approached the coffee shop the waitress came to meet us, and addressed me in impeccable English. She said, politely,

"Good afternoon. May I smoke?"

To which I hesitated, then replied, "Um, er ... yes?" because what DO you say when a waitress asks you if she can smoke?

I don't think she noticed that she had her question ever so slightly wrong, and I probably should have corrected her, but I was too taken aback by her unexpected question. Besides, I rather enjoy the idea of visitors to Japan having an equally confusing time. Depriving them of the opportunity to have a moment like that one would be cruel.

With the economic climate the way it is, we all need a little stimulating.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Little Miss Muffett

Dinner tonight was a near thing. Nearly not a dinner, I mean. I was planning to make tarragon cream chicken. In fact, I spent quite a lot of time dithering about what to have for dinner, and so when I decided I wanted tarragon chicken I REALLY wanted it. I went to the supermarket and bought the chicken, and also some veges. I bought some white wine. Then I went to the other supermarket where they have cream (the only one that does) ... and they didn't have any cream left. I stared at the empty shelf space and grumbled to myself a bit, and wondered what to do. I had all the other ingredients. I wanted tarragon chicken. I WANTED TARRAGON CHICKEN. I could almost taste it. But there was no cream.

I had a brainwave. (Not a very good one, it turned out.) They did have tiny bottles of Jersey milk, with a high fat content. Maybe that would do, I thought, if I used a lot of butter. I bought the milk.

At home I fried the chicken, added the water (not stock, because I forgot to get some AGAIN), and the milk and tarragon. I cooked it for a while, and tasted. Yum! But something was missing. I added the required dash of wine ... and watched in horror as my sauce curdled.

It was amazing. I've never actually seen something curdle before. I have seen the results, afterwards, but to actually watch it separate out like that was kind of magical, in a bad kind of magical way. It just parted. Clear(ish) liquid stayed underneath, and cottage-cheesy-like gunk floated to the top. I tasted the two bits. The white gunk tasted like cottage cheese, only more boring. The clear liquid was rather good.

I sieved out the gunk and kept the clear liquid. I added more wine, more tarragon, and put the chicken back in and cooked it for a while longer. 

The end result was pretty tasty (and a lot less fattening than I'd been planning), but might have worked better as a soup. I imagine that if I had chicken stock it would make a rather good soup, actually, and I might try it sometime. Chicken tarragon soup, flavoured with wine.

Curd, curdle ... if something curdles, I suppose the white stuff must be curds. I hadn't noticed that before. Nobody ever talks about curds unless they're reciting a nursery rhyme. Is cottage cheese actually curds? Was the first cottage cheese the result of someone else's cooking disaster?

I'll look it up in the morning.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Spring back!

I am always confused by daylight saving. Or, rather, I am confused by talk about daylight saving. Daylight saving itself is not a problem. I know that in spring you put the clock forward an hour (and lose an hour of sleep), and in autumn you do it the other way. This is not a problem. It is perfectly logical, until someone uses the mnemonic* 'spring forward, fall back,' and confuses me. Hearing this makes me think I must have it wrong, because in my head I always change it to 'spring back, fall forward.'

I don't know why I change it, but I suppose it is because I am not a springing forward sort of person. I am more likely to spring back. Also, I am fairly sure I have fallen forward more often than I have fallen back. Apparently I have been living my life all wrong. I have been falling forward and springing back on a regular basis, while all over the world other people have been springing forward and falling back.

It is probably just as well there is no daylight saving time in Japan.

*Why is it so difficult to remember how to spell a word that means 'memory aid'?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

More gulls


Thursday, March 05, 2009


Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Today I made up a joke. It is probably not a politically correct joke, but never mind. I was so pleased with myself that I decided to send it to a friend, at his workplace in New Zealand.

As I was typing my joke, however, I remembered that his workplace has email filtering software that automatically blocks email containing any naughty words. I thought about waiting until he got home from work and sending it there instead, but I am not the sort of person who likes to wait. When I make up a joke I want instant feedback.

So I sent the joke anyway. I am fairly sure he can make up his own punchline. My joke goes like this;

Q. How many Tourettes sufferers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. (censored)

Monday, March 02, 2009

My friend's cat is mental


(Also, I wish I'd had my good camera with me. The phone camera did not capture that cross-eyed, befuddled glare in all its glory.)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Notes (and notes about notes)

Today as I was waiting for a friend I made a mental note of some things I wanted to remember, for writing about here. Then I decided that a mental note was not enough. When I make mental notes I often can't locate them later, when I need them.

I wrote actual notes, instead. The problem is that now I can't be bothered writing out the stories behind the notes. I am becoming lazier and lazier as my spring vacation progresses.

Rather than not write anything, I have decided to give you just the notes. I am sure my long-time readers will be able to fill in the gaps themselves.


1. There should be a comedy category for ice skating. The pratfall possibilities are ENDLESS. It would be brilliant!

2. Why does my bra keep coming unhooked? Am I so deflated my bra no longer fits?

3. My zit is ALIVE?


Hmm. It seems some clarification might be necessary after all.


1. Inspired by a little bit of TV I saw this morning in a coffee shop.

2. I did it! Last week, actually. It hurt, but not too much. And I didn't pass out. I didn't even wobble. (It probably helped that I was lying down.) I am now feeling MUCH more comfortable (except when my bra unhooks itself).

3. The Man's reassurance that it was just a zit was enough. He did not need to add this comment, which gave me a perfectly horrible mental picture of a pus-filled blob waving tiny fists in the air and shouting, "THIS BUTTOCK IS MINE! I'M TAKING OVER!"

I'm a bit worried every time I sit down, now. ('Zitocide'?)

4. Inspired by the fact that my friend arrived just as I was going to write #4, so I made a mental note instead. (See first paragraph.)