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.

Our Mini Scouting Adventure

About a month ago I decided the boys had settled in enough with life here and we could shake things up by finding them a Beaver colony and Cub pack for them to join. We figured it would help George make friends outside school which would be a good thing too as he has been struggling a bit socially with his classmates.

Well, we were contacted by our nearest group who meet down the road and are based at the Catholic Church. They meet on Sunday mornings and we arranged a meeting with the leaders to find out more. Next came a wee interview by the deputy chair of the group (who spoke good English) and we were told about all the events that the group puts on through the year and also about the upcoming Group camp to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. In two weeks’ time. So we came away and thought about it. O was skeptical, G was keen. We went and bought the uniform. So. Cool.

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And then the boys had one session and we had to make a decision on camp that day. Thankfully they had a great time and fears were allayed, so the boys were happy to go camping. And then both Dan and I were asked if we wanted to go along too. Hell yes. So last Friday, we met at the church at 6.30am to get on a coach and we returned last Monday afternoon.

Usually the sections all camp separately, so this was a rather unique opportunity to meet the whole group and for Oliver to see what the Scouts get up to. (He will move up when he is eleven). You might know that we too had some extreme heat in Japan recently, well thankfully, that dissipated on the Friday only to make way for a typhoon. The Cubs and Beavers (and parents) were staying in a building with aircon whilst the Scouts and Venture Scouts were under canvas. This was a deal maker, really, in our decision on whether to go or not. The site was described as a Catholic university: I think it comprises a girls’ secondary school; a small community of sisters and various facilities. There was a chapel, a church, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, lines of tea bushes and a bamboo forest. Mount Fuji loomed in the distance above the campsite. Dan left on Sunday night after the campfire to catch the train back to Yokohama for work on Monday.

Food

In charge of the kitchen was a fantastic Scouter called Morai san. She was helped by another lady Scouter whose name I never mastered. I didn’t master many names, to be honest. Anyway. I tried to help out in the kitchen and I chopped cabbage, set tables and dished out food and probably got in the way a lot. The kitchen was much bigger than Ennerdale or Branthwaite’s – I was really impressed with the facilities.

We ate a lot of rice and the meals were simple with the exception of the most awesome barbecue. I managed to lose 1.7 kilos over the four days without being hungry which was brilliant!

Anyway, that barbecue. It was AMAZING. There was rice (and chopped carrot) cooked in bamboo canes; pork; sweet rice balls on sticks wrapped in bacon and doused in soy sauce; sweetcorn; aubergine; fish; baguettes packed with mozzarella, onions, tomatoes, wholegrain mustard and spam; whole chickens; watermelon; the most wonderful smores I’ve ever eaten and this was all washed down with iced tea and lemon water.

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Activities

There was a lot of formality. Each morning there was flag break and muster followed by callisthenics.

Generally Dan and I were both taken aback by the lack of things to do. It was all very relaxed and there was no morning or afternoon snacks. So an activity would be penciled in for ALL MORNING. There was a hike around a trail of bamboo crosses (that also doubled as teaching about the stations of the cross); a water fight; swimming; a night walk in the graveyard entitled ‘Test of Courage’; a mass; bamboo crafts and the campfire.

The tradition in Japan is that everyone wears their neckers (or chiefs as they call them here) on their heads. Every six/ group had prepared a sketch and there were songs too. I got them to sing the Spanish song about bogies. Always high brow, me. The camp fire was started with a bottle of lit flammable liquid travelling down a wire to the prepared fire stack. Very impressive. The campfire leader, (the Scout leader), would lead everyone to sing a chant that translated “Good evening, who is here? [person about to perform yells their name], everyone chants “what will you do?” [person responds] and then they do their thing. The campfire ended with us all stood round the fire, holding hands and singing a song to the tune of the New World Symphony and then humming it. Just lovely.

Dreams, Living and Death

The last couple of nights I’ve had some very vivid dreams.

Last night I dreamed I was with my cousin in the run-up to the ending of his life. We were on a mountain, with views to the sea and a crowd of tourists were whale watching. All of a sudden a huge whale rammed up against the shore to try and shoo the people away.

The night before I dreamed I had bumped into an ex from University. He had been very dull back in the day but now he was sporting an edgy haircut and tattoos. I was so pleased for him! That dream was set in Japan and is the first dream I’m aware of that is set here.

This morning I am lacking motivation. This may be in part to going out last night to mark Mum’s death 18 years ago on the longest day, but also the Solstice itself and also the birthdays of Steph and Ruby. I had three highballs. And some amazing aubergine from Osaka and some lovely chat at the bar with different people. And that was after eating the most delicious toasted sandwich (avocado and spinach with basil oil and cheese on caramel bread) from a local restaurant specialising in cheese toasties.

This morning I was looking at the Guardian online and read this article about Trent Rezner, https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jun/21/trent-reznor-nine-inch-nails-youre-seeing-the-fall-of-america, and I am reminded of my friend Steve who killed himself last year. He loved NIN.

So, Jason, Steve, Mum. I’m thinking of you all. But I’m having a great adventure here. Thank you for the love.

For Mum:

 

For Steve:

 

For Jason