little irish jackhammer
- cherry blossom
- Kyoto Girls High School
- Wacky Japan
I turned 42 last Thursday. Here’s what I did.
Had ancient Egyptian beers with my good friend Ted Taylor at the Kyoto University cafeteria whilst looking at a revolutionary clock tower.
Had sparkling nihonshu and some kind of ratatouille appetiser at the restaurant Yoshina on Pontocho.
Got to go out on the yuka balcony when it stopped raining and gaze lovingly at the early evening Kamo river…
The very first time Mewby and I hung out she showed me pictures of her dog, Rui, and talked a lot about how cute she was. It was clear she really loved the animal, but never having been a pet owner it didn’t really mean much to me. That was until I went to visit her house for the first time, and was greeted by this little, white, fluffy bundle of affection, joy – and an irrepressible desire to lick my face. Naturally I fell completely in love and have continued to look forward to seeing Rui whenever I have visited Mewby’s home, or on occasion, when Mewby brought her to visit me. A sweet, gentle, kind dog, she never barked except to complain when we left the house and she followed Mewby everywhere in evident joy in their companionship. But she was also a very delicate animal and sometimes when I looked at her I would feel a strange twinge of pity that for some reason always manifested itself as a mysterious pain in my arm… Rui was born with congenitally weak organs and had to go on a special diet some time ago because her liver wasn’t functioning properly. Some time ago she also went blind. Nevertheless she remained enthused with love and still had an uncanny ability to find the exact right moment to surprise me with a quick lick to the face. However, in recent weeks she stopped eating completely and her condition worsened. I’m sad to say that she passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning, but glad that Mewby was with her and that she went peacefully. She was just a little over 5 years and 8 months old – very young for a dog. However, that little dog had a big impact and we will all miss her. My thoughts are with her family in their time of grief at losing their youngest member. Goodbye gentle Rui. Thank you for bringing us so much happiness. And a safe and happy journey to you.
Last night Mewby and I rented this great movie about the 1935 debate team of historically all black Wiley College in Texas. Based on true events it depicts the efforts of educator Melvin B. Tolson to inspire his students through knowledge and training to challenge the discriminatory world of the Jim Crow south they have been brought up in. The movie does a great job of recreating the atmosphere of those times; the social upheavals, the class struggles, as well as the fight for racial equality and the general all-pervasive sense of fear that black people had to endure in the segregated south where lynching was all too common. Many of the characters in the movie are based on historical characters: 14 year-old debate team member James L. Farmer, Jr. (Denzel Whitaker), later went on to co-found C.O.R.E., the Congress of Racial Equality) and Tolson himself (played by Denzel Washington) was an educator, columnist, social activist and politician. At the end of the movie we are told that he went on to become a world renowned poet. “Why have I never heard of him?” I thought to myself, and promptly stuck this volume on my amazon wishlist.
Altogether, this is a wonderful movie with outstanding performances and a palpable sense of tension and excitement throughout. The movie is also graced by the presence of two Oscar winners in Washington and Forest Whitaker. Very highly recommended!
As all Japan-dwellers know, it is the custom in this country for girls to give boys chocolates on Valentine’s Day (regardless of whether they want them or not). This is what Mewby got me:
A water purifier for my tap! 嬉しい！Now I can enjoy great tasting water direct from “our mother” Lake Biwa! And believe me, it DOES taste better! Mewby knows me best!
Last Friday, Mewby & I celebrated our 4th anniversary together. Many thanks to Eric Johnston for recommending Valencia, a wonderful Spanish restaurant by Utsubo Park. Charming staff, great service, lovely food and a perfect atmosphere it gets four thumbs up from us!
They do cute cappuccini too!
Here are three haiku I wrote over winter vacation. My haiku mentor, Stephen Gill, seemed quite happy with when he saw them. It seems I am making progress.
This first one is an old memory stirred up when I was home:
peeling an orange -
across the hallway Daddy kneels
praying at his chair
I wrote that on my first morning back home. I woke up early through jet lag, and my mom, being a restless spirit, hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before so didn’t get up till late. This meant I had a long slow breakfast by myself in the kitchen, with my feet up on a heater, eating toast and oranges, drinking cup after cup of Yorkshire tea and reading Dharma Bums.
dark December dawn –
in my mother’s kitchen
tea and Kerouac
Chris Carver at work, had lent me Dharma Bums a couple of weeks before and I had taken it back with me to read on the journey. The bit I was reading that morning happened to be about Jack Kerouac hitchhiking all the way across America to his home town for Christmas, where he surprises his Mom in the kitchen and gives her a big hug. It’s a nice scene and it was timely reading it a couple of days before Christmas myself. Kerouac, one of the first people to popularize writing haiku in English, was by pure coincidence the topic of our first haiku class when I got back in January. Stephen, had decided to play us a recording of Mr. Kerouac reading his own poems. On the comments he made on the haiku I submitted, he asked me if I was telepathic.
The last one I wrote a few days after my return to Kyoto. I woke up one morning at a ridiculously early time, and picking up Matteo Pistono’s In the Shadow of the Buddha, soon found myself lost in it.
sleepless reading –
under the kotatsu
dreams of Tibet
It was lovely to see them. As we have so often done before, the Mulrys, my mother and myself made a little day trip to that lovely North Yorkshire seaside town Whitby… Click through to the individual pictures on flickr if you would like a little more information.
And finally Saltburn with Mr. Potter… Here’s Mike Potter and his girlfriend Lisa who I met for the first time.And a charming lady she is too.
This is the place we had lunch at, Virgo’s in Saltburn. Saltburn is a lovely old Victorian seaside town on the wild north-east coast and Virgo’s is a very nice bistro/cafe with a great menu that includes several vegetarian dishes.
I had pasta with pesto and pine nuts. All the ps.
These two had some other stuff… We were all really satisfied anyway.
It was too cold and windy for walking so we retreated to the Ship – an old smugglers pub for pints and pirate impressions.
It’s always good to see Mr. Potter. Here’s a little Teesside moon from the journey back…
We had been there last three years ago on Xmas Eve, and enjoyed the stalls and the mulled wine, but it has increased in popularity since then, the crowds have gotten bigger and the mulled wine somehow wasn’t as good… To escape the crowds we wandered through the Umeda Sky Building and its garden instead. This is ourselves reflected in a window looking out on an illuminated waterfall.
Later we had dinner at Santa Lucia near Utsubo Park (thanks to Eric J. for that tip!). It was pretty good… Though a bit odd that we were seated in a greenhouse.
And the food was a little too salty. Back in Kyoto we went to Kisui and Miu needed four glasses of orange juice in quick succession to quench her thirst. Before heading back though we also took in the Yodogawa illuminations:
On the Sunday, (18th December) we visited Arashiyama Hanatouro (lantern light-up). It was crowded and very cold but well worth the visit.
After that we really needed a hot nabe to heat us up! I was positively dreaming of this on the train back.
This one from Soba no Mi Yoshimura was just the job!
To follow ~ Chrimbly pictures from jolly old England!
Halloween was Mewby’s birthday so I took her out for a meal at a posh French restaurant. You can read the details on Deep Kyoto, but basically they had great food and great coffee, but a crap drinks menu and they served me whale. Mewby liked her dessert anyway, so that’s something.
After the restaurant, our thirsts still unquenched we popped in at Kisui. Every year Setchan makes a big point of celebrating Halloween and having all her customers dress up. Setchan really loves Halloween. Anyway the place was full of lively characters, all in costume and all in high spirits who immediately burst into a rousing “Happy Birthday to you…!” as soon as we walked through the door. Setchan and Risae’s costumes were particularly impressive:
And though we didn’t come in costume, Setchan has her own stash of wigs and accoutrements on hand and so we were encouraged to dress accordingly:
Then home for cake and candles – and as it was Halloween it seemed appropriate somehow that Mewby wear my AC/DC devil horns…
On October 22nd, I joined the Hailstone Haiku Circle’s composition stroll in Nara. The weather was temperamental, but we didn’t get a full downpour until the evening – once I’d gotten back to Kyoto – so we were lucky. Though the maple leaves hadn’t changed yet, the leaves of the 南京黄櫨 (Chinese tallow tree) had turned a beautiful crimson.
Plunging from the open grassy plain into primeval forest, we came upon a stream and Stephen Gill carefully placed some stones for the ladies to cross over.
cross the beck
on freshly-placed stones
Here in the woods we also encountered a stag who had somehow managed to avoid getting his antlers removed this year. The deer in Nara are quite unafraid of humans, and so to avoid having them injuring people their antlers are removed. This fellow is obviously faster or sneakier than most.
Here we are under a massive oak, descendant of oaks that have been here for thousands of years.
At Shinyakushiji we viewed 12 ancient statues of heavenly guardians, a big fat Buddha, and in the garden flowers like these:
a boy admires a girl
The persimmon trees in Nara were hung with luminous fruit… But I couldn’t help noticing the metal fencing and forsaken machinery – that was painted the same colour!
rusty ripe persimmon -
In the long grass
abandoned metal fences
Finally we returned to a cafe, where we had tea and delicious apple cake – and shared our haiku.
I was delighted that my own two offerings met with the others’ approval. And even more so that one of them made it onto the Hailstone website report. You can read some haiku by the other members and Stephen’s report there.