Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Kings on holiday

A bank holiday Sunday in Cambridge. View of Kings College chapel from the river. One of three days of sunshine from the last two weeks. To learn about the rules governing English conversations about weather, read "Watching the English" by Kate Fox. Recomended reading for anybody who has spent time in England. Any good examples of 'Comments reserved for sunny days' in the comments please.
"Like a london bus innit? Wait for one for ages and then three come at once!"

Horse & Guard, London

This is not a pub.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Light Relief

In Cambridge today, and just as we were leving we 'encountered' this busker, whose songs were entertaining and whose dog sang along.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


The land of the all day fried breakfast, four seasons in a day summers, and fantastic charity shops where I picked up clothes that fit for a fraction of Japan-land prices. Need them here too. It's freezing!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Royally Drunk

One of the best things about the U.K, apart from bacon, is the beer. The huge range of real ales available from breweries all over the country leaves you spoiled for choice. Japan also has some fantastic local beers (Ji - beeru) but not only are they very expensive, but most can only be bought in the local area.

Yesterday I picked up two bottles of Duchy Organic at the supermarket for £1:59 a bottle.
"Duchy comes from the Duchy of Cornwall estates which are held in trust by The Prince of Wales who, as heir to the throne, also holds the title Duke of Cornwall."
(from the Duchy Originals webpage HERE)

A very light beer, probably best served chilled. I had no idea that HRH was involved in this line of work, even at a remove, and commend him for looking into alternative avenues for employment.

Was it a Hurricane?

At Beachy Head yesterday. We hadn't known that yesterday was the airshow over Eastbourne, so imagine my surprise when these flew by. But... are they Hurricanes or Spitfires?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Alfriston, and on, and on...

The village church in Alfriston, East Sussex. I had forgotten just how green England is (and how cold the summer can be). Today I am off to Beachy Head, the location for the final scene of Quadrophenia.

And a final note from the far side:
"Wild & Free: hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall's seafood foraging masterclass"
(Coast magazine September ed.)

The far side indeed!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Here we go, Here we go....

The bland elevator music that began as the train pulled into Japan's newest international air terminal "Centrair" signalled the beginning of journey time. The spirit already flown abroad, the body just travelling to catch up.

"Centair" is an attempt to create a catchy new name by mixing 'central' and 'air', Nagoya being in the central region of Japan. The result is difficult to pronounce in any langauge.

First in line at check in brings the reward of an emergency door seat, with all the leg-room I could wish for. An 11 hour flight through the night, 2 hours in Dubai airport and then an 8 hour stretch to Gatwick. I hear that there are protests planned at Heathrow tomorrow and am happy to avoid it.

One hour to kill before boarding. Ignore the T.V kindly provided by Sony and to a space near gate 19 with a pack of cards for some meditative solitaire. Dashing in and out of the smoking cage, trying to keep my cloathes fresh that little bit longer. Enjoying wearing full leangth jeans for the first time in two months. Conditioned air for the next 24 hours. Not so many kids (yet). Non crying. Unable to buy Sake to take home as Dubai airport rules prevent it. Looking forward to seeing family and friends. Out of 100 yen coins for the internet. See you on the far side.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


( ... in de skys)

Journey To Forever

When I first moved to Japan, I was living in a bed town in Chiba. I lived in a small one room appartment with one electric ring and a 'Space Bed' (It lowered down on rails from the ceiling to save space, but I used it for storage after experiencing my first earthquake whilst in it!).
The appartment was next door to a storage space for items too big to throw away normaly. Furniture, fridges, stereos etc. All free if you asked nicely. I changed my interior weekly.

One day I met a poacher on my turf. Foreign, tall, skinny and grey haired. I had met Keith from the Journey to Forever project.

South African by birth, Keith had worked as an editor of various newspapers in South Africa during apartheid, reporting the news that really mattered. Years pass, and in 2000 he was living just round the corner from me doing the groundwork for the overland trip from East Asia to South Africa. With him, his Japanese wife, Midori, also a journalist and pictured sitting on their land rover which they run as much as possible on bio-deisel.

Describing the project on the website, keith writes:
"The focus will be on trees, soil and water, sustainable farming, sustainable technology, and family nutrition."

For a more detailed description of the project, visit the website linked above (Japanese version HERE). It is a fantastic resource for environment related news and editorial, just as Keith was a fantastic resource and inspiration for day to day ideas to reduce waste in the home. My favourite were the worms. A special type of worm that you could keep in a bin in your kitchen and that would reduce your kitchen waste to usuable compost (Mitz refused to have them in the house).

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dorothy came and left me ....

... a way home? If I lived in Kansas I'd be tempted. It would certainly be cheaper than the return ticket I bought home. A fifty percent price increase on the same ticket not a couple of months ago, but that was before the school holidays and before the Obon holiday season. And try getting the exchange rate from 7 years ago at any bank now. Hah! And I just moved! What a time for a holiday!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Soy Sauce and Takoyaki

Today was my last location shoot before heading back to England for a couple of weeks. We left at 7:30 from the studio and headed to Kariya city, south of Nagoya, where I had worked for 5 years as an Elementary school "English Teacher" (pet). I was excited about going back there. Throughout those 5 years I toured 8 schools each month. In total I reckon to have come into regular contact with about 8000 children. I was hoping to meet some of them again.

The shoot was for a free magazine in the Nagoya/Mikawa region. Luckily it was all digital. Film photography takes a great deal more effort and concentration for the assistant and cameraman, and today was another one of those barmy humid and hot days that have you standing in shadows without realizing it. Concentration becomes an effort rather than a pleasure.

We visited 7 different locations in all, including a Soy sauce factory, an outdoor sports shop, a ramen shop, a public bath house dating back from the early showa period and a Takoyaki/Okonimiyaki izakaya. My experience in Japan finally proved useful today as I knew all the short cuts between different areas of the city. Something for the gravestone.

Five of us in two cars. The cameraman and myself, the designer, a copywriter and a location organiser. We have worked together before, and there was a casual comfort in this. Each has a job to do, and knows the other can do theirs. As a freelancer one can never be sure who you will be working with from one day to the next. Some you cherish that bit more, some you barely think about, and some you can't wait to see the back of hoping never to meet again. The people that stare at me in confusion/fear/amusement/derision etc when we are working together fall into the latter group.

The Soy Sauce factory was interesting for it's huge wooden barrels, the outdoor shop for it's gear (I worked in an outdoor shop for two years during my rock climbing maniac period), the public bath displayed a lack of care and distinct devotion to (or reliance on) local patrons, and the Takoyaki shop proved to be an education in how to eat a Takoyaki. Those batter balls with a piece of octopus in the middle are usually eaten piping hot, stuffed whole into the mouth on a cold winters day making you say "ouch, sh*t, hot.....". We ate the Takoyaki after photographing them, giving them a chance to cool down. In this way I discovered their delicious creamy taste and the simple rule that to enjoy Takoyaki you should let them cool down first.

The route home once again gave me a chance to prove my local knowledge as I took us by unmarked road under the bullet train tracks to a highway entrance in the north of the city. Having not met a single former student during the whole day, I spotted one on the main drag. Noting that she had grown in height, obtained the teenager's ignorance of her surroundings prefering the mobile mail in her hand, and seemed to be in a rush, I thought better of offering up a greeting, and instead mulled over the idea that things change, one will be forgotten by children and cats if you are not there, and the need to buy a plug adaptor before I leave on Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Semi Awake

The Cicada is known as a Semi in Japan. So I'm told the Japanese Cicada spends up to 7 years (heresay) in a larval form underground awaiting just the right summer. They then emerge and shed their larval skins, transforming into their adult stage.

The park opposite my appartment is one of the reasons we chose this place. It is fairly big for a Japanese city park, has many trees and unusualy enough a wide expance of grass that you can sit on.

Now each tree is full of Cicada. Each morning we wake (are awoken to?) a screeching and scratching that would have 100,000 crickets packing away their violins in disgust. They have a very short lifespan in their adult form. Perhaps this is the reason for their urgency.

In the afternoon or early evening it is wise not to remark on how quiet they have become since that morning since they react by turning up the volume.

This morning, as every morning, they are so noisy that it is almost impossible to have a conversation from the veranda with someone sitting in the adjoining room.