Friday, February 19, 2021

Lost in Translation?

During the 90s, I lived in Tokyo for around six years in total. First for one year, then after a year back in Australia, back for another five.

It was a great experience, a wonderful time to be in Japan. I made a lot of friends, working with teachers from around the world. We worked all day, socialised after work, and mostly got on very well. There were a lot of transients, young people working to make money to fund the next leg of their adventure, but there were also those we considered "lifers".

Those were the days before the internet was a thing, and so sadly I never really managed to keep in contact with many of my friends.

The last school I worked at was the exception. It was a small Berlitz school in Shimo-Kitazawa, and the core staff there hardly changed for the four years I was there. For the most part, we're all still in touch, and some of us have even caught up occasionally.

Last night I was feeling nostalgic, trying to remember names and faces, and wondering what happened to them all. I'm sure I have photos, but unfortunately most of them are currently in storage.

My first teaching job was with Nova in Otsuka, a suburb of Tokyo near Ikebukuro. I worked with Susan, a Canadian, and Heidi and Tim - both Americans. I am still in touch with Heidi, but I do wonder what happened to Tim and Susan. (and yes, I recall their family names).

I don't remember many students there. There was one lady who I think was a reporter, and a trained opera singer. One night I convinced her to sing. She only let one, short note out, but it was intense and I remember the office staff all jumping and looking up. She also managed to get me tickets to the filming of Naruhodo The World, a TV show hosted by Beat Takeshi.

Another student was a huge fan of Mr Big, and gave me one of their CD singles when I left. Another gave me a cassette tape of the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. I hope you're still enjoying your music. 

When I returned a year later, I started working at Nova in Ueno. That is where I met the Doctor, a good friend who remains in contact. We even manage to catch up every couple of years and hang out. But I lost touch with all the others there. (Canadians) Doug and Sean. (New Zealander) Mel. (Americans) Rick, Dan, Brett. (English) Sian, Ed, Elizabeth(?). (Australian) Harold. There was a Japanese-American guy whose name (I think) might have been John. And many others. All good people, all fun.

What became of you all?

I moved to another Nova school for a short time. I think it might have been Okachimachi - very close to Ueno. I only remember one teacher there. I think she was Australian, and her name may have been Lisa.

I hope you're well.

After that I moved to Berlitz at Shimo-Kitazawa. As I said, I am still in touch with many of the teachers there, and one student. But during training, and visiting other schools, I got to know many more. There was the lady who spent a year living in a tepee and dealing drugs in a previous life, Larry - a keen photographer, and John, whose sister was a famous comedienne in Australia. Paul from South Africa, Juliet from the US, Chris from Canada, Oliver who loved cycling, and a few others.

Wouldn't it be great to catch up and reminisce?

And then so many students. Many of these I remember. Kumiko, who was embarrassed when she gave me giri-chocolate. The TV director, who gave me ringside seats to the Sumo and went to America to study film-making. The husband and wife dentist team, the two lovely ladies who took me out for lunch when they heard I was leaving. So many whose first names I forget. Many of these I remember their family names, but I'm leaving those off this page.

Ah what a time it was. And if you remember me from Tokyo days, whether through language schools or elsewhere, please get in touch. It would be wonderful to hear from you.


Monday, February 1, 2021

Soups On!

I've always joked that salad is not a meal, but a decoration that accompanies the steak. I've also joked that soup is not a meal, but a starter before the main course.

Of course this was an exaggeration and meant as a joke. But when I do go to restaurants, I wouldn't order either soup or a salad as the meal - especially for an evening meal. On a cold day a thick soup with crusty bread at lunch does appeal.

Over the years I have sometimes taken soup to work for lunch. These I quite enjoyed - filling, hearty and healthy. Last year I started a new job, and I was in the office for about 5 weeks before I was sent home to work remotely. (And I'm now less than two months from having not set foot in my office for a year.) Despite the short time I was there, one of my colleagues would tease me about having soup for lunch. Is it soup again, Steve?  What a surprise.

I do love cooking, and I'm pretty dab with a recipe. I'm proud of my curries and pizzas, and I've been known to journey into other cuisines with great results. But I'm a recipe follower. I can't do the whole chef thing and make it up as I go along.

Since working from home, I have started making soups. And recently I've even been adventurous enough to "wing it" from time to time. I confess, though, I often call on assistance to make sure I'm not going to destroy anything.  (Do you think I can add this tin of tuna to this pea and ham soup?)

I make enough for the week, not that we have it every single day, but it is warming in winter and healthy. All part of my master plan to not stack on weight during a time when sitting at my desk for extended hours.

And I'm not snacking either.

So me, I'm the thin guy over here, finishing my soup and having a mandarin for afternoon tea.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Happy New Lockdown Year.

Happy New Year.

And for those of us in the UK, we're back in lockdown. The virus seems to be running rampant, and we're confined to the house for the foreseeable future. Not that it changes much for me. I've been working from home since March, have been quite reluctant to got out unless I need to, and generally avoid people where I can. In fact, we even stayed at home for Christmas this year - just the two of us. It was lovely and quiet.

But I'm not going to dwell on the negatives in this world. There are so many at the moment, and I'm surrounded by them all the time.

A new year - the year of the Ox in China. I have no idea what it means for us, but I suppose I will have a look shortly. I could ask my Chinese friend, but the last time I asked him what a particular year meant for us, he advised me to invest in the stock market. I suspect it's similar advice he would offer now. 

The year is fresh, although I recognise it as an arbitrary marker. Simply clicking over a new number in a calendar doesn't actually change anything. Or does it?  I suppose it offers us a chance to reset, forgive and/or forget, and face the future with a new determinism. This year, that could be quite difficult.

But despite that, I do have plans for this year. By December I'll be able to report back on my strike rate.

Have a great year. Don't let the world get you down.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Whistle While You Work.

I have never really listened to music while I work. As a teacher, I couldn't really do so in the classroom. Even while marking I found it distracted me. And this was also true of listening to music as I write. I didn't choose to listen to music in my last position in administration. In the office, it would have meant earphones, and I preferred to be able to hear what was happening around me and to be sure when my phone was ringing.

Last week, however, I started playing music in the background while working, My role has changed, and I have found that gentle music calms me as I create content. There are some tasks which require a great deal of focus, and so off it goes. I can't focus on certain tasks and enjoy the music.

It's been great catching up on some recent music I hadn't had the opportunity to check out properly. And to play old favourites I hadn't heard in a while.

Will I start listening to music when I return to the office?  I don't know. It may just feel wrong. Time will tell, although I don't anticipate it will be anytime soon.

In the meantime, I'm going to throw on the latest album from Dystopian Future Movies.  Lovely!

Monday, December 7, 2020

Write, Rewrite, Submit.

I submitted a story recently. It has been a while since I sent one out into the wilderness, but a market appeared before me, I had a story that suit and so off it went.

It's been a while since I wrote anything new. I wrote this story a couple of years ago, and never really sent it out. I received great feedback from a reader, who really liked it. I left it for a while and re-read it with fresh eyes, then re-structured it to make a better story. And then it sat on the hard disk for close to a year until a few weeks ago when I sent it on its way.

Will the editor like it as much as I do? I can never be sure unless they buy it. Even if they reject it, they may add a note about what they thought of it. And it might be one they love but it doesn't fit in with the collection they are preparing.

On the other hand, I might receive a standard for rejection, which leaves you none the wiser as to what they thought of it.

Ultimately it makes little difference, apart from the bruising to your ego and your own hurt feelings. And this can really hurt when you read the final product (from which you were excluded) and really hate some of the stories.  "Why?", you shriek as you raise your fist to the darkening sky and curse the editor, the publisher and the other authors.  And then you get on with your day and make your toast for breakfast.

But hopefully I'll hear soon, and the bonus will be an acceptance.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Hunting Dogs.

We lost Mabel, our lovely dog, just a few months ago. She was somewhere around 16 or 17, travelled to the UK with us from Australia, and we miss her terribly.

The house is empty without her. It feels wrong to arrive home and not have her waiting for us. It feels wrong when I'm cooking and she's standing at my feet waiting for a scrap. It definitely feels wrong to wake in the middle of the night and hear the reassuring snuffling sounds of a content dog fast asleep and dreaming of bones.

We lost our other girl, Millie, about 18 months ago. It hurt as well, but not as much as we still had Mabel at our feet. Now we've come to miss them both equally.

We started looking at rescue centres to find another dog, but they're all out. It seems they can't keep up with demand as families working from home decide to get a pup. I guess it's good for all these homeless dogs, but will they be sent back when there is a return to work?

As a side to this new demand, breeders are charging excessively ridiculous sums for their dogs - if you can find one who has any. Waiting lists abound.

In the meantime, we continue to look for a dog. It has to be the right one for us. But we'll know when we see it.  Wish us luck in our hunt.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Continuing Positivity in These Trying Times.

It's been a trying time. The weirdness continues. We're back in lockdown in the UK, the US election has been held along with all the associated fun and games, and the world generally seems like an unhappy place.

There's no doubt that the events of 2020 thus far (and who's to say what still awaits us) have had a terrible effect on the world. Not least in regards to mental health. Even myself, who lives in a relatively safe area, has been fortunate to not have lost anyone, and hold a job which is vital during these times, has felt the stress and strain of the ongoing events. 

I've done my bit to remain positive in social media - trying to share some of my favourite things on a daily basis rather than spread the negativity which seems to dominate our lives. I commenced in March when we all started working remotely from home and managed to get to day 180 before I decided it was enough. I felt I was going to have to start adding things just for the sake of adding things. And not everything can be a favourite.

On the upside I've seen a lot of movies and been reading a lot. I've read and enjoyed a range of magazines which offered short and cheap trial subscriptions. I've read some new fiction from authors in a range of genres. I've devoured a bunch of biographies and autobiographies from (mostly) musicians who interest me. And I've revisited a few old-school Science Fiction and Fantasy authors - some novels I'd read before, some which were new to me. These are mostly beautiful 70s SF novels with the wonderful painted cover art which I managed to find in charity shops. 

It is what it is. We have to learn to live with this. Hopefully we'll all be able to emerge once more and create a new normal. Until then, I'm diving back into the decreasing stack of waiting books next to my bed.