David Chart's Japan Diary

September 5th 2005

I am now back from the UK. This was a 'holiday'. However, I didn't have much free time in which I could have updated my diary, and my internet connection was less than ideal, so I didn't, as you may have noticed, update the diary while I was there. This is, after all, a Japan diary, so I don't need to write anything about what happened in the UK.

No? Oh, all right then.

As I mentioned in the last entry, I got caught up in the dispute between British Airways and Gate Gourmet, and thus left Japan two days later than planned, on Japan Airlines. Japanese airlines still follow the outmoded and disgracefully discriminatory practice of hiring young, pretty women as flight attendants, so I was looking forward to the flight. Alas, it was a European-based flight crew. Once I actually got on a plane, the flight was fairly uneventful; the most exciting event was the flight crew becoming concerned that I wasn't eating anything. I can fast for eighteen hours or so with no problems, as long as I can eat before I try to sleep, but this occasionally disturbs people. (I also try to avoid operating heavy machinery while very hungry...)

Arrival in the UK was smooth, but I soon knew I'd left Japan: the bus to Cambridge was ten minutes late.

The original plan had been to attend a role-playing convention happening in Cambridge over the weekend. As it was, I managed to set the record for the latest arrival at such a convention: I turned up at the closing dinner after everyone else had ordered. Still, the dinner was pleasant, and I got to meet one of the people I had planned to see at the convention, and who doesn't live in Cambridge.

I stayed with my sister in Cambridge, and the Monday was a day for us to spend together, chatting and catching up. That was very good; it's a long time since I had a good chance to chat with her. I headed on to Thetford on the Tuesday, to stay with my mother and Ray (her husband, and former Mayor of Thetford). It was good to see them as well, and to eat Ray's cooking again.

It was less good to see the dozens of boxes of books stacked up in the garden room. One of my holiday tasks was to sort all of those books, and prepare the ones I want over here for shipping. Since I don't have a huge amount of space here, reducing the quantity was important. Avoiding paying to ship things I don't need was also a major motivator. That was a big job, and one that didn't get finished until the day before I was due to leave. (It's one of the major reasons you haven't had an update.) In fact, it's still not finished; I'm still trying to find a shipping company, and getting quotes that vary by a factor of five or six is not helping the process.

I'd planned to get Silver, Mum, and Ray presents from Japan. Mum and Ray were quite taken with the rainchains that they'd seen on various houses, so I decided to get them one. It took a while to find somewhere to find one that sold them independently, but Kazarisha sells very nice copper ones, quite appropriate for gifts. The web ordering system was a bit broken, but we were able to work round that, and I got the order done before I left Japan. I was expecting the chain to arrive after I left. It arrived about two days after I did, and the chain was very nice.

Around this point, I discovered that Ars Magica 5th Edition had won two ENnies awards. The first was a silver award for Production Values. I can't claim any credit for that; all the physical things were dealt with at Atlas Games. The second was a gold award for Best Rules. I can claim some credit for that one.

I had less time than originally anticipated before Yuriko came over to England to join me, so I didn't get a lot of sorting done then. In fact, I think I got little done beyond moving a few boxes around in a fairly desultory fashion and despairing at the vast amount left to do.

Yuriko came over on the Thursday, to spend a week with me. She had not previously met my mother, so that was one of the main reasons for the visit. We didn't really want them to meet for the first time at the wedding. (Of course, Mum and Ray have now decided that they want to visit Japan later this year; it's like buses, isn't it.) I went to Heathrow Airport to collect her and bring her back to Thetford, so that took up most of the day. Ray cooked us his salmon meal for dinner, which was delicious.

At the weekend, my father was over in the UK on a business trip that "just happened" to coincide with our visit. Pure coincidence, I'm sure. So, on Saturday, Yuriko and I went to Cambridge for a day with Dad and Silver. Yuriko had met Silver once before, but it was several years ago; she'd met Dad twice in Japan, so at least he was a bit familiar already. We had lunch and dinner together, and spent most of the afternoon shopping for clothes for me. That didn't actually involve me very much at all: Yuriko picked the clothes and Dad paid. People seem to think that I need to vary my wardrobe a bit. I can't think why. (Mum commented that she found the situation very familiar; I believe she tried something similar when she married my Dad. Apparently Yuriko is having more success. This may be partially due to the financial support and my inability to exclaim "I'm not paying for that!" while backing away hurriedly.) The clothes are very nice, and I've worn most of them already.

Sunday Lunch Most of the family having lunch together. I'm wearing one of my new tops.

We spent Saturday night at Silver's, and came back to Thetford on Sunday for lunch together, followed by an open air jazz concert. The concert was a chance for Yuriko to meet some more members of Ray's family, and Dad ans Silver took lots of pictures of us in the gardens behind King's House in Thetford. There was a raffle, and Ray, naturally, won a prize. Yuriko also won something, for the proper English experience. Raffles are done very differently in Japan. A ticket entitles you to turn a special drum, and if one of the golden ball bearings comes out, you've won a prize. More interactive. Anyway, Yuriko and I walked back from the concert along the river, and Yuriko was very impressed with the pretty countryside.

On Monday, Yuriko and I went to London to meet a couple of Yuriko's friends, one from when she was studying here, and one who has just gone over from Japan. Then it was back to Cambridge, imposing on my sister overnight again. On the Tuesday two of Yuriko's friends had invited us round for lunch, so in the morning we went for a walk around Cambridge. We popped into Hughes Hall, so that Yuriko could see my second College, and then into the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. By pure chance, Peter Lipton, my PhD superviser and the head of the Department, happened to be in the office when we popped in, so we had a coffee with him, and talked about where we were up to. I'm going to try to stay a bit more in contact from now on.

After that, we went for lunch with Yuriko's friends. They're a married couple; he's English, and she's Japanese. Thus, we planned to pump them for advice. Yuriko did; I got distracted into playing with their elder son, who is about six. We played with a Japanese Prefecture Jigsaw Puzzle, and then their younger son, who's about two, decided to present me with all the toys out of his box, one by one. I hope Yuriko picked up lots of good advice; I only learned that Rosie's Walk is still popular today. It was fun, though, and the food was good.

After lunch, we walked to Silver's place of work, because I hadn't seen it yet (she changed jobs while I was in Japan). After being introduced to everyone, we walked back through Cambridge, and took the opportunity to walk through Trinity to the Backs, so Yuriko got to see my first College as well (although I suspect that she saw that last time, as well).

I can't remember what we did on Wednesday. Probably something absolutely vital and exciting. Or maybe we just slept all day to catch up. On Thursday, I took Yuriko back to Heathrow. The bus I'd originally planned to get was full, so I had to get the next one. It's just as well that I did.

The first delay was due to the driver having, apparently, driven the bus illegally as far as Stansted, with no tachograph (I think) installed. The explanation we got wasn't very detailed. And then we hit traffic on the M25. We spent the best part of an hour stationary, split into about three different blocks. We spent a lot more time moving really, really slowly. As a result, we were almost exactly two hours late arriving at Heathrow. On the later bus, that would have meant Yuriko missing her flight. As it was, we were fine; we even had time to have lunch together before I saw her off.

No sooner had Yuriko left Thetford than Silver arrived, to spend a bit more time with me. This was slightly less effective than before, because I really had to get on with sorting boxes. I did, fortunately, and I even found time to go for a walk down by the river with my sister. Explaining about covalent and ionic bonds, and the effects of soil acidity on the mobility of metal ions, was actually a fairly normal sort of conversation for us. We did get some funny looks from the fishermen we passed, though.

On the Monday we (Silver and I) went back to Cambridge together. I had lunch with Sheila, where I had smoked salmon, a different kind of smoked salmon, and yet another kind of smoked salmon at Loch Fyne, opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum, and after lunch we went to see the Fitzwilliam's part of the Cambridge Illuminations exhibition. This was amazing. The oldest book was the gospel book reportedly brought over by St Augustine of Canterbury when the Pope sent him to England in 597. Unlike most such stories, this one is probably true; the book is the right age, and has an attested history that puts it in Canterbury in the early seventh century at the latest. It was, ahem, "moved" to the Parker library at Corpus Christi College in the sixteenth century. There were dozens of other books, and the Macclesfield Psalter is currently in pieces, so it was possible to see a lot of the illuminations. We spent about three hours in the three rooms, looking at everything and wondering about the possible use of the books in the Ars Magica saga.

We then went back to Sheila's, where Neil and Angela, two others of my Cambridge friends, joined us for dinner. That was a good opportunity to catch up with friends I hadn't seen for years, and meet Sheila's new cat. I spent the night at Silver's again, because I needed to go to the bank, and that Monday was a Bank Holiday.

On the Tuesday I did my bank business, and met Silver after work to go around the University Library part of the Cambridge Illuminations exhibition. That was also good, with very different books to look at. Some of them were printed books with the illustrations coloured in. I was always taught not to do that...

By this time it was nearly time for me to head back to Japan. I booked myself on the earlier coach (learning from experience), and made a last push to get the sorting finished. I got the amount down to about half of where it had started, and started enquiries with shipping companies.

British Airways was functioning again by the time I came back, so things were much more straightforward. Checking in was quick, and while the flight was a bit late taking off, we were on time arriving. The flight didn't even seem all that long, although I didn't really manage to sleep on the plane.

Things were incredibly smooth in Japan. As I had a re-entry permit, I was able to go through the Japanese Nationals channel, and there was no queue. I had a bit of a wait for my baggage, but then there was no queue in customs, either. The train to Tokyo was, of course, on time.

Yuriko met me at Mizonokuchi station. She moved into our flat at the end of August, so I wasn't going home to be by myself. I am currently enjoying having my meals cooked and my laundry done, although I suspect that this is a limited-term 'while jet-lagged' offer. Even so, I got to go out in the driving rain to bring the (very wet) washing in, when the influence of this weekend's typhoon caused heavy rain over Tokyo.

So, now I have to get used to living with Yuriko. I'm enjoying it so far, but there are already differences. Personally, I don't feel that the colour of the pole we hang our washing on is terribly important, but it matters to Yuriko, so we have to look for a brown one. Yuriko also tends to just turn the television on when she's around. I tend to check my email, instead...

I'm hoping to get back to a more regular schedule of diary entries now. We'll see.