The Guilt of November 11

British autumns from your childhood, eh? You’ve got the thrill of going back to school, (I enjoyed kit lists and new stationary and all that jazz); you’ve got harvest festivals, (some great primary school classics such as ‘Autumn leaves when the grass is jewelled’ and ‘Cauliflowers fluffy and cabbages green’); then there’s Halloween and Bonfire Night; and then church parade and Remembrance Day. All well and good.

This year we are in Yokohama and the school term starts in April, not September; the school’s focus was undokai (sports festival), not harvest festival; yes, there’s been Halloween celebrations but no trick or treating and it’s warm and sunny not cold and rainy, and as far as autumn landmarks go, that’s it now. No Bonfire Night, (obviously) and no Remembrance Day.

But, as I recalled, Japan was an ally in World War One so why isn’t there a similar event here? Well, the losses Japan sustained were a tiny fraction of those of the British and Commonwealth forces – I think less than one hundred were killed, mostly in the Mediterranean, and it is hardly mentioned in the Japanese history books. Conversely, British society was torn asunder by the loss of young men: men who never returned or if they did, were often affected by physical or mental wounds. It scarred the British psyche.

Of course, the second world war scarred the country again – and the civilian population sustained losses in the blitz and u boat campaigns. Children born after 1945 were often fascinated by the impact of the war on their families and country. Their children are my generation who now have children of our own.

Thankfully my knowledge of war is scant. I remember the first months of the first Iraq war whilst I was basking on a school bench in Kenilworth, one sunny September lunchtime. Then, the start of the second Iraq war coincided with me taking on a job at County archive. However, as a Guide, I would dutifully and patriotically take part in Remembrance Day Parade. Later, as part of a Scout marching band we would lead the march through small town in the New Forest.  I even attended one or two wreath laying events at university: for the first time attending in civvies. As a young adult I would happily buy a poppy. Pin it to a coat. Then lose that poppy, and go and buy another. Then more recently, I would buy a poppy or two but I would perhaps be wearing my Goretex jacket (as by this point I was living in rainy Cumbria, land of Goretex), or it might be a dry day and I might be wearing my new Rab feather jacket and not want to get a hole in it, and that act of buying a poppy becomes an imposition. I still buy the poppy but it languishes beside my bed. They are just bloody impractical for November weather in Cumbria.

Why am I obsessing about the wearing of a poppy? Tommy Robinson. I saw him on telly, a good week or two ago, stood outside a court in his smart suit and pristine poppy and it reminded me of all the news/media folk you see on the telly at this time of year, all with their pristine poppies which are OBVIOUSLY newly pinned by some runner whose job it is from mid-October onwards to have a ready supply of poppies (and pins) to hand. Because heaven forfend that you are seen without one. A nod to the mores but not necessarily sincere.

I do often think about the soldiers’ sacrifice, and griping about the impracticality of wearing a poppy for a week or so does seem so bloody petulant, but I’m fed up with the guilt. The guilt of feeling like you have to prove to people that you HAVE bought a poppy (usually several). The guilt that you haven’t had to see your generation sacrificed for some greater cause, and now the guilt that this sort of unhealthy and impractical relationship to the fallen can be commandeered by right wingers.

Having lived in a country that has had to redefine itself after 1945 I find it refreshing to know that national esteem doesn’t have to be linked to military victories. I’ve decided that the next time I am in the UK in October/ November I am going to make a donation to the Royal British Legion and then buy some temporary poppy tattoos online and stick them on my face. Yes, it’s unconventional, but that’s me.

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Above is a list of allied servicemen who gave their lives in the First World War. It’s in the Yokohama Foreign Cemetery. I’m plan to find out more about it. Watch this space.

Sunshine in October

 

Today’s Halloween and am I missing the overpriced school party, the cold and the rain? Am I missing the last minute sweet shopping for trick or treating or persuading the boys to dress up? No, not at all. The other morning it was slightly chillier and I did consider making a cup of tea (Yorkshire Gold with milk) but I didn’t get round to it and the urge passed.

We’re hosting a Bonfire Night party with some other Brits on Friday but otherwise, I am not missing British autumn at all.

The last few days have been so warm and sunny, I’ve loved walking around Yokohama, soaking up the sunshine.

On Monday night I went to a theatre to listen to a traditional storyteller tell some standup in English. It’s called rakugu I think. It was really good, and I was part of an audience that had been invited to go for the experience to be filmed by NHK World. I got a decorative handkerchief/towel and 1ooo yen as a thank you. I was in the third row along with a Black couple, a Filipina and an Indian guy. I think my Mediterranean looks affected my seating. On the front row were all the blonde women. (Yes, Japan is racist).

Dan’s working hard at the moment in a three week blast of HAZOP meetings. I’m getting by, but I am missing having lunch with him and his colleagues. The kids are ok at school – I don’t think there are any big events coming up for them, but we are needing to tell the school that we’ll be taking them out of school YET AGAIN as the term doesn’t end till December 26th. That’s right folks, without Dan’s intervention, they’d be at school on Christmas Day. (I’m all up for it as I hate Christmas).

 

 

 

Bloody Brexit

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Today’s been pretty productive. I’ve got up early, written my Morning Pages for the first time; gone through my Anki flashcards (katakana, kanji and conversation); sewed some colours onto the boys’ gym hats for sports day; cooked porridge; stripped the bed; put a wash on; washed up. But then I peeked at Twitter. I know, I know. Stupid me.

Most week days I meet up with Dan and his colleagues for lunch. Most of us are English but usually there is at least one Japanese friend too. Most days we lament Brexit and I used to feel bad for our Nihongo friend for talking politics in front of him. A couple of months ago we’d be incredulous but jovial about it. More recently, however, the joy has gone and we are more angry and I am not feeling bad about talking politics because this is SEISMIC in terms of what it means to be British and the future of Britain and we are angry about it and this is a historical time for us and we care.

Yesterday there was a government advice notice, (or whatever they’re called) that puts it in black and white that air traffic could well be affected. I remember discussing this with a Brit I met at a hostel last October and the Europeans we were chatting with dismissed this – it wouldn’t happen. But I reckon it might. And when is Dan’s contract meant to end? When are we meant to fly back? Start of April. Ho, ho, ho!

I’m getting so angry about the stripping of rights and freedoms for us Brits and especially the younger generation. What is our country meant to become? What is our plan, our vision, our blueprint? Even now, there’s no obvious future except uncertainty at best and economic ruin and social chaos at worst. It’s been a shambles for TWO BLOODY YEARS. I’m sorry. I know this is nothing new but I just have to vent.

I get bogged down in this division that has been thrust upon us by the righteous 52% and then think, but it’s okay. There are still artists and kind people and beautiful green countryside and they make living in the UK worthwhile. But I also get the feeling that everyone is getting fed up with the whole Brexit process. At best they are ignoring it and assuming everything will be fine. At worst, friends are depressed and anxious about their jobs, their future, medicines, the food they will be able to buy and feed their families with and the cost of holidays. They are wondering if their neighbours are going to stick around; if there will be enough doctors and GPs, enough people to pick the food this country CAN grow.

Returning to the UK was going to be hard enough come the spring, but returning to Brexit Britain really makes my heart sink.

I’ve got lots of lovely holiday-type blog posts to write. I’m sorry I’m overdue. And if you’ve got this far through this post you deserve a gold star. Good on you. Take care of yourselves.

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Hiking – Kita Kamakura to Kamakura

Last Saturday we caught the train to Kita Kamakura to walk a wee hiking trail. This was my first time on this walk but the boys had done it before with Dan.

Along the way there are two or three temples and I think we visited two. Sadly, we gave the cat temple a miss.

In the first temple complex there were various shrines including these three statues of buddhas which depict the past, present and future.

There is also a cave which I stupidly bravely walked along without any light. I freaked out just as I reached the end of the tunnel.

There was another wee cave which housed a jolly buddha and so we all dutifully gave his belly a rub and rugged at his finger and earlobe.

There was a lovely traditional house there too.

As far as inspiration for relandscaping our garden, trips like this are great.

A little further along the walk we stopped at a second temple at the top of a ridge. It had a very different vibe.

Not far from here was an excellent terrace cafe that served delicious homemade croissants. We pigged out. We pigged out so badly I didn’t even take photos of the brilliant croissants. George had a yummy mango pudding though.

It was great to see the kinoko (fungi) again and various flowers.

Arriving back into Kamakura, we stopped at a small cafe and I had iced matcha tea and a cinnamon doughnut (homemade).

We then went to a bar that Dan likes and had a couple of pints of tasty and strong IPA. The food that the chef was prepping for tea looked wonderful but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to stretch out our visit to the bar for long enough. Another time.

Nashi picking

A couple of weeks ago George had his first Beavers session after the summer break. They met at Ishikawacho station in the morning and that was them till the afternoon.

He had a great time, and was really proud of his haul.

There’s a new Beaver leader, too, which G is excited about.

His leader sent us some photos and told us that G had been helping the shorter Beavers to pick their Asian Pears.

It’s a New Term and a New Boo-Boo

Yes, we’re talking another episode of ‘King Family Disappointing the School’.

Poor Dan hasn’t had time off work since coming to the UK in April to help us clear out of the rented place after the fire and bring us out to Japan. Not the most relaxing week or two of his life. The boys and I went back to England, fleetingly – for just over two weeks, in August so that we could get our eyes checked, visit the dentist and so that George could go to his Razzamatazz summer school. We also had a lovely few days on the south coast visiting Parkin family. Anyway, before the kids broke up from school, we wrote in their communications books that we’d be taking them out of school for two weeks. (We’ll be visiting a rice farm during harvest, then exploring Osaka and Kyoto and Okinawa). The teachers wrote replies saying that this was ok.

Fast forward to today and Dan writes another nudge note in the comms book reminding the teachers that we’ll be away.

Then, after lunch, there is an email from the lovely lady from HR to say that the school had telephoned her and that they were shocked and concerned about the boys missing the preparation for Sports Day. (Which is happening on the Saturday, a week after our return from holiday). Thankfully the  WONDERFUL HR lady knows us well and is married to an American, (and so can see the foibles of Japanese school culture), and blagged it for us saying it was part of our homeschool programme and that the boys would continue with their prep for sports day whilst we were away. Anyway, I felt awful again. I do hate to disappoint the school, and if they had raised concerns about the block of time before the school holidays we could have altered things, perhaps.

Well, I then went to the Daiso (100yen shop) and bought what was on the list AND some of the very-tasty-full-of-artificial-colours-and-sour-Octopus-jelly-sweets and came home and now feel a little bit better.

This is the Soran Bushi dance that Oliver has to practise and that he’ll be performing on Sports Day. He’s been practising at home off his own bat, which has been really lovely as dance isn’t normally his thing. But he’s enjoying this, which is great. (Another credit to Motomachi school for that).

Back to School

We had a rather hectic fortnight in the UK at the end of August visiting friends and relatives and getting George to and from his Razzamatazz summer school. Sadly the UK’s heatwave had waved away so it was the usual grey chilly summer weather that I expect of Cumbria.

Right now I am shirking from the job of hanging out the washing on our balcony. I’ve just updated my LinkedIn profile. (Why?!) And am waiting for some actually caffeinated coffee to brew. (Again, why? I’ve been off caffeine for months now.) It’s a crazy morning.

Today is Disaster Training Day. Dan has it at work and the boys are doing it at school too. I have to go and pick them up at 11.20 as if there’s been a massive earthquake. (Remember to take slippers and PTA ID badge, though).

The boys have been back at school for one week and only mornings at that. I think it’s been a really good reintroduction to school life. That plus the AWESOME school party that was held last Saturday. We didn’t know what to expect, and Dan was wanting us to go to see the last of the summer fireworks at Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, where there would be large crowds of Japanese in their finery. But we were knackered from the jet lag and the boys had been griping about being back in Japan and having to go to school so I didn’t want a late night.

Anyway, we went and it was ace. There were food stalls and lucky dip type stalls and dancing, drumming and singing, and folks in their finery too. And there was a beer tent. Everyone was happy.