Dr John Hawkins
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home to a huge load of pictures,
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- The Slow Boat to China (actually, train to Hiroshima)
Today's Sesame Street was brought to you by the letter 'M'
Another Lazy Day
Travelling back to Hiroshima
Round Shinjuku with Hide
Shukun and Yukichan
Travelling to Tokyo
Mostly Stayed In
There's something in my ear...
First day in Japan
Last Night in England
Submitting, Packing up and Beer Festival
Toad in the Hole
- The Slow Boat to China (actually, train to Hiroshima)
- [Saturday 28th May]
We set off from Dale and Erina's first thing in the morning, and decided to try and make our way back to Hiroshima using only local trains, as apparantly the ticket we'd bought on Thursday was still valid for travel, but the "express" portion had expired, or something. Anyway, we weren't in a particular rush to get anywhere, so it made a nice change to take in some scenery etc by doing the journey a bit slower than usual. The first leg was from Mukomachi (which I couldn't pronounce to start with, so had instead dubbed "Muchos Gracias") to Shin-Osaka, which didn't take very long. From there we got on train number 2, to Himeji, which apparently took over an hour, but we must have slept through a lot of as it only seemed like ten minutes. Having made excellent progress as far as Himeji - which, given my limited understanding of Japanese geography I had though was about halfway - things started to drag a bit. The next leg (train number 3) was Himeji to Aioi, and from there we got a train past Okayama to Kurashiki, where we decided to get off for a bit of a wander, as it is quite a nice place. Sort of Venice meets Kyoto, I suppose, but on a fairly small scale. We had lunch in Kurashiki too - some very nice pizza, and also visited a jazz cafe for a quick drink, before getting back on the train.
The next leg (train number 4) was from Kurashiki to Fukuyama. After Fukuyama we got a train (number 5) as far as Saijo, the sake distilling place not too far from Hiroshima. Finally our last train - number 6, took us to the station nearest to Chie's family's house. It was about 7 when we eventually got home, so taking off at most 2 hours for our break in Kurashiki we'd spent about 8 hours travelling from Kyoto to Hiroshima - about three times as long as it would have taken by Shinkansen!
- [Friday 27th May]
Having stayed the previous evening at Dale and Erina's place, we thought we would make good use of our location and go to visit something nearby.... and guess what, we were just a stone's throw away from Yamazaki Whisky Distillery. Having recently done rather well in the Whisky Magazaine 2005 "whisky of the year" awards, and having had some experience of this distillery from the SMWS back in England, I was naturally very excited at the prospect of going there.
It made for a great day out - for me at least. The distillery is easily accessible, and perhaps a little more urban than I'm used to when thinking about Scotch distilleries, but on the inside I could just as well have been touring any distillery in Caledonia. The free samples were a particular highlight - they were exceptionally generous - and following on from that there was a sort of bar in the lobby (worth a visit by itself) where for some extremely modest sums you can sample a wide range of Yamazaki expressions (and other whiskies too as I recall). For the rather silly, throw-away sum of 500 Yen (about 2 pounds 50) I was given a set of five Yamazaki expressions at cask strength - 8, 10, 12, 15, 18 or something like that. Admittedly these were small measure - 10ML I think, but still tremendous value.
As an added bonus on the way round the tour I also got chatting to another couple of Englishmen who worked somewhere nearby - Simon and Dominic. It's always great to make new friends like this!
We decided to stay on another night at Dale and Erina's, as we were having such a nice time. In the evening we had gyoza for dinner, when poor old Dale got home after what must have been a very long and hard day for him - I couldn't help but feel guilty about having got up late and bummed around all day while he was hard at work! Oh well, that's life I suppose!
- [Thursday 26th May]
Checked out of our hotel about 10AM, and spent the morning doing a spot of shopping around Shinjuku. I bought a new shirt to keep the sun off a bit. Chie had an interview in the afternoon, so I decided to go and wile away the time in Shijukugyoen - Shinjuku Central Park. I'd been before on my previous trip to Tokyo, but we'd been towards the end of the day and so had to rush round a bit. This time I had a lot longer to relax and breathe it all in. It is probably my favourite place in Tokyo (with the possible exception of Watanabesan's excellent Quercus Bar) as feels like a million miles away from all the overcrowding of Tokyo's streets and public transport. I sat for quite a while to start with in the English style gardens, listening to my MP3 player and supping coke (which I think ought to be renamed gaijin-cha) and nibbling on junk food. After a bit of this I got up and went for a wander around the Japanese bits etc, before eventually heading back to Shinjuku station to meet up with Chie at 4pm.
On the way back to Hiroshima we decided to break up our journey and stop off around Kyoto to go and visit Dale and Erina. Spent a great evening nattering away with Dale about life in Japan, whilst drinking sake, and before we knew it it was 4:30 in the morning. Poor old Dale had to go to work the next morning!
- [Wednesday 25th May]
Had to travel to Tokyo a couple of days earlier than expected for an interview. So got on the shinkansen in the morning, and spent the four hour journey listening to my new MP3 player - these frequent long journeys I've been making recently have been one of the chief reasons for buying it. Again the interview, which started fairly late in the working day and extended into the early evening, went OK I think. After that, we checked in at our hotel - The Washington Hotel, dropped off our bags, and then headed out for a drink. We went to St. George's Bar at the Hilton, because they have an arrangement on at the moment with the SWMS - superbly I can drink a selection of whisky society bottlings there. This was really great - I had a 93.13 (Glen Scotia), and in a single sip I was taken back to the quiet havens that are the London/Edinburgh venues of the society. It ended up too late to go to any restaurants or anything - particularly as in the bit of Shinjuku we were in everything seemed to cater for the office workers and therefore closed earlier. So instead we settled for stocking up at a conbini, and having a rather unglamorous dinner in our hotel room. Still, nice nonetheless.
- Today's Sesame Street was brought to you by the letter 'M'
- [Tuesday 24th May]
All the highlights of today began with the letter 'M'. In the morning, after complaining about not being able to have a "proper" breakfast (i.e. the same sorts of things I would have back in England), as if by magic, two jars of Marmite popped through the letterbox. OK, actually a delivery man turned up and we opened the door and had to sign for them - they wouldn't fit through the letterbox, but metaphorically speaking they popped through the letterbox. Oh joy of joys! I can never thank Chie's friend Tomoko-san enough for sending these, what an absolute angel!
After the sheer delight of a couple of slices of (thin!!!) toast with Marmite on, we headed into Hiroshima for a spot of shopping. I'd decided to buy an MP3 player, and in the end went for the V@MP VP-425. If looks could kill then... well, this would be an MP3 player you wouldn't feel particularly threatened by. OK let's face it, it is pretty ugly. It was the feature set that sold it though - that, and the price. I can listen to (and record) FM radio with it, it has 256MB of built-in memory but can also take SD cards, and it also has dual headphone sockets, so Chie and I can listen to it at the same time. All for 12800 Yen (about 65 quid). You can't say farer than that, even if it does look like it was designed by a particularly boring civil servant on a dull day in the 1980s.
After buying the MP3 player, we went to a little Japanese sweets cafe where I had some rather nice Mochi. Don't particularly remember much of the day after that - I guess we just went back home and had dinner there at some point or other...
- Italian Fair
- [Monday 23rd May]
In the daytime went to an "Italian Fair" at the Mitsukoshi department store in Hiroshima. Another example of how well I'm embracing Japanese culture! Bought a few bits and pieces there - some olives, a jar of some tapenade type stuff, and some pasta. Spent the evening eating most of these things basically! Not much else to report...
- [Sunday 22nd May]
Tambo is Japanese for paddy field - i.e. the place where rice is grown. This is where we went today - to Chie's aunt and uncle's allotment style tambo, to plant this year's rice crop. We had to get up early for this, as it was some distance away. At first I wasn't exactly sure why the family would choose a tambo so far away, when the Japanese countryside is absolutely littered with them... but when we got there it became clear - it was a really magnificent spot. Whether or not the great scenery makes better rice I can't say for sure, but I'd like to think it does. Planting the little seedlings was surprisingly wholesome and fulfilling work, and very quick too, as there were six of us and it wasn't such a huge tambo. After this we had lunch at the farmhouse, and then motored back towards Hiroshima. Had dinner at an Italian place with Chie's aunt and uncle, and then headed back to Chie's parents' house for the rest of the evening, to rest in a satisfied manner after (something at least resembling) a decent days' work.
- [Saturday 21st May]
Didn't leave the flat today. Two of Kana's colleagues came to visit in the afternoon, to visit the grave, pay their respects etc. So this made for a bit of a solemn day, but the pair of them seemed like really nice people, so that was quite positive.
- Another Lazy Day
- [Friday 20th May]
Another fairly lazy day in Hiroshima. Stayed in most of the day, with the exception of an outing around 6ish to go to the post office (they seem to open a lot later in Japan than in England!). On the way back from the post office we came across a shop selling furniture made from old whisky barrels which was obviously of particularly interest to me. Although the shop was closed, there was a barrel conveniently left outside, which made me very happy. We also popped to Tsutaya - the video rental place. It seems I have now exhausted the catalogue of Miyazaki/Ghibli flims - at least the ones worth watching - so I had to look elsewhere. I chose Ying Xiong (Hero) in the end, as I rather like Jet Li. I watched it later on that evening, but am not totally sure whether I liked it or not. There seems to be a sort of sadness and fatalism in a lot of Eastern films which I find rather depressing - quite why everyone always has to die at the end I am not sure. Call me a sucker for tradition, but I rather like everybody riding off into the sunset at the end of the film.
- [Thursday 19th May]
Didn't do very much in the morning. In the afternoon I started to crave English food - particularly potatoes - and so we went for a walk to a supermarket to buy some bits and pieces. For dinner, I managed, with some difficulty, to make a brocolli cheese bake, and some roast potatoes (in a sukiyaki pan, an innovation of which I'm rather proud). The cheese sauce was a bit lumpy - it was quite difficult to make with completely different ingredients to what I'm used to - but overall the brocolli dish came out rather well, I think. The potatoes seemed to be well received too - I think this is the first time Chie's father has had roast potatoes, and not all Japanese people like them, so this felt like something of an achievement.
- Travelling back to Hiroshima
- [Wednesday 18th May]
Checked out of our weekly mansion just before 10 in the morning, and headed over to Shinagawa from where we would get the Shinkansen back to Hiroshima. Met Yuka before getting on the train to pick up a suitcase, and spent a while hanging around in Shinagawa station as our train wasn't until after midday. The train journey took four hours - actually very quick considering the distance covered - and we got back to Hiroshima at some time after 4 in the afternoon. Spent the rest of the day/evening relaxing in Chie's family's flat, drinking Meiri sake and having a drawn out dinner. Splendid.
- Round Shinjuku with Hide
- [Tuesday 17th May]
Spent most of the day with our friend Hide around the Shinjuku area. As Hide has to get up at a silly time for work (something like 3 o' clock on the morning) we decided to reschedule the evening into the afternoon, seeing this as a perfectly valid excuse to go out and get drunk whilst everyone else was at work.
We started off with lunch at "Shakey's" - beer and pizza, and then went for a walk around Shinjuku Central Park. Don't be fooled by the latter healthy sounding activity - we were just killing time until the Irish pub we wanted to go to opened. The Dubliner's Irish pub provided us with a couple of very respectable pints of Guinness and, fortified by this, we set out on a mission to sing some karaoke. We spent about an hour and a half in the karaoke place - aided by a big pitcher of Asahi - and enjoyed (?!) such classics as I Will Survive, Radiohead's Just, and, for the mandatory Sinatra number New York, New York. After this we stumbled into a nearby Indian restaurant for a splendid curry, with, naturally, more beer.
As poor Hide had his rediculous early start, he headed home after the curry, around 8:30, but Chie and I weren't quite ready to throw in the towel yet, so rounded the evening off in a bar round the corner from where we were staying. All in all a very boozy day, and, with the possible exception of the karaoke, one distinctly lacking in anything particularly Japanese! Still, a lot of fun nonetheless.
- [Monday 16th May]
Didn't do much in the morning, but spent the afternoon and early evening around Ikebukuro, not too far from our weekly mansion. Meant to go to a restaurant called Rohlan for lunch, as recommended by vegietokyo.com. Actually we got there a bit late for lunch, so ended up taking a wander around the area for the afternoon, and came back for dinner instead. The restaurant is Taiwanese. In Taiwan, I'm led to believe, there are a fair amount of Buddhists, and as such vegetarian food is a bit more popular than in mainland China (i.e. the concept actually exists). In fact Rohlan had an entire vegetarian menu to choose from, with a mixture of tofu and "fake meat" style dishes. I particularly enjoyed the vegetarian tonkatsu, and the old favourite bean curd in black bean sauce was done exceptionally well. Also very nice was the daikon mochi (sticky rice cakes with white raddish) and the vegetarian kake-age, which was a lot like the sort of vegetarian chicken style nugget things you get back in England. All in all a really excellent meal. Moreover it was embarassingly cheap - in total something like 18 quid for the pair of us, which included drinks, and we were both stuffed by the end of it. I shall definitely be returning here at some point if I'm ever in the area again.
- Shukun and Yukichan
- [Sunday 15th May]
Another day with one thing planned and another actually happening. We'd planned to go and visit Chie's friends' Sakagura (the place where sake is made). Although we did go and visit Chie's friend, somehow or other we never quite got to the sakagura. Still, we had a very nice time regardless, and were treated to some really wonderful hospitality by Shukun's family. This included a few hours spent in the family's izakaya, trying to work our way through an umanageably huge feast, interspersed with bouts on the karaoke machine. Particularly enjoyed meeting Shukun's niece - 3 year old Yukican, who is absolutely adorable.
- [Saturday 14th May]
This was a weekend where we planned to do one thing, which didn't really materialise, and ended up doing something else instead. Today we planned to go to Kamakura, a place not too far from Tokyo - sometimes called "The Kyoto of the East", but for one reason or another this didn't really happen. Instead, we had an incredibly lazy morning, and didn't really get out of our weekly mansion until after lunchtime. We then met up with Yuka around 3ish in Shinjuku, and went for a wander around Shinjuku gardens, which are very nice, and I made a mental note to go again some time.
After that we went to a cafe place for some cake followed shortly after by dinner (an inexcusable trangression of the "savoury before sweet" rule which my mother would not be happy about!). Dinner was at this Italian pizzeria place. Actually the pizza - mine at least - was a little uninteresting, but some of the other dishes were pretty good. For some reason or other I didn't feel so well after this - I am beginning to wonder if the water you get for free in Japanese restaurants etc isn't always so clean, this is the second or third time I've had a bad stomach ache on this trip to Japan, and the water has been the only common factor. Anyway, as a result we went back to the weekly mansion fairly early, and I had an early night.
- [Friday 13th May]
Went to see an agency in the morning to have a chat about some potentail jobs etc. After that had lunch in Subway (not particularly Japanese, I know!). Chie had another interview in the afternoon, during which I went and killed time in Akihabara. After meeeting up with Chie again, we headed over to Shibuya (via Harajuku, of recent Gwen Stefani fame) to go to a sumibiyaki place. Here we met lots of Chie's old friends from Gyosei - Yuki, Shusuke, Haruka, Yumi and Hide. Had a really great evening barbequeing things (as is the way of sumibiyaki) and drinking beer. Smashing.
- Quercus Bar
- [Thursday 12th May]
In the daytime (the afternoon to be more precise) I'd visited a company in Tokyo for a job interview. As always with these sorts of things it is hard to say how it went, save to say that it could have been worse. Given that this was a fairly demanding process, I thought it important to unwind afterwards, and after meeting up with Chie, we embarked on a short tour of some of Tokyo's fine drinking establishments.
[Click here to read more...]
- Travelling to Tokyo
- [Wednesday 11th May]
Left Hiroshima at 11.30 in the morning in the Shinkansen bound for Tokyo. Had lunch and a beer or two during the train journey, and even did a bit of software development - those hundred or so lines of code will always hold a special place in my heart now given that they were written on the shinkansen. Travelling on this wonderful train service really was a joy as ever, particularly as I was able to get some decent views of Mount Fuji en route.
We arrived in Tokyo mid-afternoon, and headed straight to some obscure district to check in to our weekly mansion, where we would be staying for, funnily enough, the next week. This was my first experience of a weekly mansion, and it was quite a thing to behold. One tiny little room, which, in theor, has everything you need to live - a place to sleep, a bathroom, and even basic cooking facilities (a microwave, a hob, a few pots and pans). After an initial period of "adjustment", I started to take something of a shine to the little shoebox as it happens. We ate in that evening - buying some pasta etc in a hyaku yen shop nearby (wherein, bizarrely, a chopping knife was the same price as the onion you'd use it to cut with).
- [Tuesday 10th May]
Didn't do anything of great interest in the dayime - just on the computer again mainly. In the early evening went out for a walk, and met up with Chie's Mum after she finished work. This turned into a bit of a boozy outing, as in a fit of spontaneity we decided to bundle into an izakaya near to where Chie's family live. Chie's Dad joined us a bit later on. Had some surprisingly nice snacks - including gobo chips and age dashi tofu (without the dashi) and also tried a couple of greast local sakes. By local, I mean from Saijo - Hiroshima's sake producing district, including one from the Kire Sakagura, which I had visited, and also coincidentally met a member of the family that runs the place.
- [Monday 9th May]
Spent the afternoon shopping. First took a walk over to a sort of discount alcohol shop, which as an interesting range of single malts. Met Chie's Mum there and we drove from there to "Diamond City" a big new shopping centre where we spent the rest of the afternoon. For dinner we made gyoza, which were very nice indeed - I must have eaten about twenty!
- Mostly Stayed In
- [Sunday 8th May]
Stayed indoors most of the day again, and got quite a lot done in the computer. It has been quite a while since I've had a decent amount of time to do some serious development work on StuffTV etc, so this has been very satisfying. Did go out for a while around 5 or 6 for a walk around the local park, up on a hill, and strangely took a few pictures of Japanese warning signs, etc.
- [Saturday 7th May]
Today we had a ceremony to mark one year since Kana, Chie's sister, passed away. Obviously it was quite an emotional day, but the whole family came together and pulled through. After the ceremony, at which a Buddhist monk attended, held at Chie's grandparents' house, we went to some formal Japanese gardens for a meal. The gardens were really beautiful, particularly as the flowers were in full bloom. They must have a lot of foreign visitors (perhaps as it is near Mazda HQ) as they were able to provide me with a vegetarian menu. We left there around 4 or 5, and after that headed back to the family home for a quiet night in.
- Stayed In
- [Friday 6th May]
Stayed in all day and did very little of any note - actually sat down and did some programming for the first time in ages. Had a kind of tofu burger thing for dinner, which was very interesting.
- [Thursday 5th May]
Spent most of the day in the centre of Hiroshima - had Italian food for lunch, some fried tempura type stuff as a sort of mid-afternoon snack, and then sushi at Sushi-Tei for dinner. After that went on to an izakaya with Chie for a bit more drinking. Consumed a credible amount of beer and sake during the course of the evening.
- There's something in my ear...
- [Wednesday 4th May]
Today was Chie's birthday. Again I woke up early - still haven't got used to the time difference, and spent a couple of hours on the internet researching Japanese digital TV. After breakfast we had a little present opening session. Amongst the presents (the mandatory "stupid and pointless" one) was a sort of rubber ear thing, which is used in a visual gag often seen on Japanese TV. Click on the image to see a short video clip demonstrating its' use. I seem to have found this a lot more amusing than it really should be.
In the afternoon we went to the shopping centre - Diamond City - which used to be the local Kirin Brewery. Kirin still has a presence there - a small scale brewery in just one of the original buildings, which works more as a visitor centre than an actual proper industrial concern. We went on the tour of the brewery which was very interesting, despite only being able to understand snippets of what the tour guide was saying. Later on we headed over to Chie's grandparent's house for dinner, and spent the remainder of the evening there.
- Flower Festival
- [Tuesday 3rd May]
Went to the flower festival in Hiroshima, which didn't actually seem to involve a lot of flowers... There was a large parade, and all the trappings of a Japanese festival I've become familiar with from past experiences - stalls selling things-on-a-stick, etc. Spent a large part of the afternoon shopping for presents for Chie's birthday, and realised how difficult it was for me to shop in Japan. It's not just the obvious difficulties of language and currency conversion, but also knowing which sorts of shops to go to for which sort of things... I'm sure I'll get the hang of it though.
- First day in Japan
- [Monday 2nd May]
So, we arrived at Kansai airport, on an artificial island made of rubbish off the coast from Osaka, just before 9. We went straight out and got on the now familiar Haruka line to Shin-Osaka, from where we then got the Shinkansen to Hiroshima. My stomach had been feeling really unsettled whilst on the plane, and this had become particularly bad just after landing. To begin with I'd put it down to not eating and sleeping properly, and just general stress. After leaving the airport I started to feel a bit better, and on the Shinkansen on the way to Hiroshima I was more or less OK... but then towards the end of the journey it started to get worse again, and I began to think I had something more like food poisoning. Our flight had been delayed because of a "problem" with the catering, and I began to wonder exactly what that problem was. They'd said it had something to do with the salmon, which I hadn't eaten of course, but I had the definite suspicion that the "problem" wasn't just limited to that.
When we got to Hiroshima, we met Chie's mum at the station, who had a few errands to carry out, so we had to kill some time wandering around the city centre. I realised more than on previous trips just how much I stood out in a crowd of Japanese people, and became quite sensitive that I was being stared at a lot. By this point I was starting to feel really ill, and, not to go into too much detail, became rather familiar with the toilet in a Hiroshima department store. This seemed to be the pinnacle of all the stress I'd been suffering in the run up to coming to Japan, what with the mammoth undertaking of finishing off my thesis, packing up and moving out, and everything else. That stretch of time spent in Fukuya's toilet is a strong contender for the most miserable half an hour or so I have spent in recent history. We went straight back to Chie's family's flat after that, arrived some time around 3pm, and I basically went straight to bed. To hell with all that nonsense about trying to beat jetlag, I'd just had enough.
- [Sunday 1st May]
We left the hotel early and got on a coach to Heathrow, a rather unceremonious goodbye to England (I guess we'd done all of that the previous evening). We'd got our tickets with KLM, as it was cheap, which meant we had to first take a connecting flight to Amsterdam before the main flight to Osaka. I really hate flying so wasn't particularly looking forward to today. The first connecting flight was a little bit rough, but actually the main flight wasn't too bad, and after the first hour or so I was actually pretty relaxed - particularly as we had three seats for the two of us (the flight wasn't particularly full) so we could really spread out. I still wasn't able to sleep on the plane though. I'd brought along some Nytol on the suggestion of the doctor, but in the end chose not to take it - I've never taken sleep medicine before, and was worried I might have a bad reaction to it or something. Planes generally aren't the best places to undergo anaphilactic shocks.
Anyway, yes, the flight wasn't too bad - the inflight films included National Treasure, and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, neither of which were particularly great, but did at least serve to take my mind off worrying just how several tons of metal could manage to be that far up in the sky. From the point of view of writing a journal, it's a bit difficult to know where one day finishes and another ends when flying between different time zones. We touched down in Osaka before 9 in the morning Japanese time, which is after midnight UK time... so I guess that's as good a point as any to draw a line.
- Last Night in England
- [Saturday 30th April]
Today was our last full day in England. It began with a cleaning marathon, trying to get the flat shipshape for when the landlady came round to collect they keys etc. Tom popped round for lunch, and we headed over to the Cross Keys - maybe for the last time! After lunch Tom very kindly allowed us to offload some stuff onto him - including a big box to go the tip, and then he went home and we finished off the cleaning.
Left the flat around 5ish, with help from Chie's friends Junko and Masato who gave us (and all our luggage) a lift into town. We'd planned to stay in a hotel in Reading for our last night in England, as it would make getting to the airport far easier the next morning (plus we couldn't exactly hand over the keys to the landlady at 6AM Sunday morning). We stayed at the County Hotel - I guess the hotel itself wasn't bad, but the woman on reception was absolutely shit, and got into a big argument with Chie about the car park and managed to be unnecessarily rude and offensive in the process. We just wanted our friends, who had driven us there, to be able to leave their car there for half an hour or so while we bought them a coffee to say thank you. As hotel guests we were entitled to a parking space for the entirety of our stay, and we only wanted to use it for less than an hour, but because the car didn't actually belong to us she was being really dificult. The manager stepped in after a while and told the stupid woman to shut up more or less, and said it was fine for us to leave the car there for a while. You wonder how people like that get jobs sometimes. I guess though it was fitting that on our last night in England before heading off to Japan we should have one last example of the kind of apalling standards of customer service with which my country is plagued.
The evening from then on was supposed to be spent at the beer festival, but reports of opressive queuing made us give up on that idea, and instead Chie and I split off and did our own thing, each spending the time in different pubs in Reading with our respective groups of friends.
I really wasn't that bothered about the beer festival in actuality - I just wanted to be surrounded by my friends and didn't particularly care where that was going to take place (it turned out to be the Back of Beyond). I had a really great, albeit slightly emotional evening, and was accompanied by a host of great people who'd gathered to wave me off - Rob, Byrnie, Mark, Michelle and Paul to name just a few. After the pub closed Rob seemed keen to go on to the Rising Sun, which had a late license, but we didn't stay long as it was really busy and too loud to talk or anything. Finally Chie and I turned in at half past midnight, or something like that, aware that we had a plane to catch the next morning.
- Submitting, Packing up and Beer Festival
- [Friday 29th April]
Dad stayed the previous evening - if you can call it evening, as we didn't get back until gone 2am. We got up about 8 (to me, an inhumanly short length of time to sleep) and headed into Reading to sort out submitting my thesis. As it turned out this was going to require two trips, we left the copies of the thesis with the binders, who said we'd need to come back at 2pm to pick it up. By no means were we going to sit around twiddling our thumbs for this time, so we got back in the car and headed back to the flat to sort out clearing it out and packing it up. On the way to the flat we did afford ourselves a short break to have a rather fantastic cooked breakfast at The Gorge Cafe. Apparently it had been there since the time my Dad had briefly lived in Reading, when he was a boy.
The remainder of the morning consisted of removing stuff from the flat, either to be packed up and stored at my Dad's house, or to go to the tip. The tip was a surprising fun experience, and I found great satisfaction and release in hurling old crap into these giant skips. Of course, we paid appropriate attention to that which was recyclable - clothes, cardboard and metal stuff were all "filed" seperately.
We headed back to Reading for 2pm to pick up the thesis from the binder and submit it. It felt quite good to have the finished thing in my hands (well, subject to the inevitable corrections later on), particularly as I had my Dad there to witness it all. This went to the exams office, and whilst on campus I did a few other bits and pieces of admin type stuff related to submitting. We left campus before 3, but it took quite a while to get back to the flat, as it seemed the bank holiday traffic had started early. Anywho, when we got back we did the last bit of packing up and loading Dad's car, and he headed off for the long drive back up to North Wales around 5ish. What an absolute star - he really had gone above and beyond the call of duty. You'd have hoped by age 28 I would no longer have to rely on my Dad to move house!
After Dad headed off I was left with a number of items on my "to do" list - taking some stuff over to my old office, and then Louise - my brother's wife's sister (my sister-in-law?) came over in the early evening to pick up the washing machine. This had been an absolute git to unplumb, which only made me all the more happy to see it go. Luckily Rob, bless him, turned up to pick some other stuff around the same time as Louise, so the poor unsuspecting fool got roped into lugging a washing machine down two flights of stairs. I guess it wasn't as heavy as I'd thought it would be in the end (either that or Rob bore the brunt of it!).
Finally, with all of that out of the way, by about 8ish I was free to have a break, and got a lift back into Reading with Rob to head over to the beer festival and meet up with some old friends from where I used to work (I'm actually getting used to the "used to" bit here now). I was queuing for about an hour, didn't get in until 9:30, and the place stopped serving at 11! Still, it was great to see all the guys, even if for a fairly short space of time. Got back home some time gone midnight after a final time experiencing the shambles of a train service between Reading and Pangbourne (the standard late night bus replacement between Tilehurst and Pangbourne, which of course wasn't there when we arrived). As you can imagine, it didn't take that long to get to sleep.
- Final Slog
- [Thursday 28th April]
Junchan had stayed the previous evening, which was nice as it meant we could get the train into London together in the morning. This gave us a good chance to have a chat about life, the universe and everything. After that I spent the rest of the day (and I mean that literally, the entire rest of the day, until gone midnight) with my supervisor putting the finishing touches to my thesis. Having wanted to leave about 8, I didn't eventually leave until after midnight, and didn't get home until gone 2 o' clock in the morning, with three printed copies of my thesis in hand.
My Dad, who had arranged to come and stay for the evening, very kindly hatched a complicated plan to pick me up at a place convenient to intersect with my supervisor's route home. The chosen venue was the awe inspiring South Mimms service station, somewhere north of London. The levels of general fatigue I was suffering, whereby I was bordering on hallucination anyway, turned into a riot of surreality, given the extreme weirdness of being at South Mimms that time of the morning. I was forced to conclude, as Arkwright from "Open All Hours" would observe - It's been a funny sort of day.
- [Wednesday 27th April]
Chie was out for most of the evening with Nozaki and Junchan, but I'd rather concientiously decided I ought to stay in and work, as this would be my last proper day at home to work on the thesis. It was a bit of a shame how things had worked out with Junchan - she'd come to stay in England for a month just as we were heading off to Japan. So she came to stay Wednesday night, and I was a bit too busy to spend much time with her even then. Oh well.
- Toad in the Hole
- [Tuesday 26th April]
An improvement on the previous day, although not sure why - perhaps just a knee jerk reaction based on the realisaton that being in a generally pissy mood was no way to carry on. Chie made dinner - toad in the hole, with roast potatoes and parsnips and some tenderstem broccoli. This was very nice, and perhaps somehow poignant or symbolic or something that, as we were leaving England soon, and about to say goodbye to this kind of food, and it was Chie doing the cooking.
- [Monday 25th April]
Not a great day - we were into our last week, but there was still so much to do and the task ahead seemed pretty daunting. Neither Chie nor I were in a particularly great mood that evening. Dinner comprised some pasta following a pointless argument about what to eat. Generally pretty rubbish.