Sunday, 31 July 2011

Visitors in the garden...

Had ourselves yet another BBQ yesterday.
Only 6 people though, so nice and relaxing.
A Japanese friend who lives in England came with her England and Japan family and we cooked and ate and laughed in the late afternoon/early evening.

Okaasan went out at 12.30 immediatly after lunch to avoid the incoming visitors.
By 7.15 pm she still hadn't come home. I felt guilty and worried about her staying out again to escape the social pressure of meeting guests at the house.
I nagged Yujiro into calling her cell phone.
She was at her usual place: the counter of the Seicomart convenience store down the road, eating a riceball.
He coaxed her into coming home.
She looked so tired, poor thing, I steered her straight into the kitchen and fed her raw squid, soup and melon...gave her some friendly chat etc. She looked tired.
I feel we have to be very careful about too many visitors and BBQs here....because she stays out for hours and hours to avoid it all. She is healthy etc for walking, but still - 81 years old and seven hours out. It's a long time.

The friends left. We cleared up the BBQ and went inside, leaving charcoal burner and boxes on the front doorstep.

About 8.30 pm I heard a sound.
Looked out and saw this late visitor!!!

A North Fox in the garden! This is 6 subway stops from central Sapporo.
Obviously drawn in by the smells of meat and burnt marshmallows.
I'd heard from a student that there are foxes in the park near here, and the big cemetary. But never expected to see one on the doorstep.

And then I realized Popo and Chichi - the young stupid cats Who Know No Fear - were down in the garden too. I raced downstairs with Yujiro just in time to see Popo chase the ran a few steps and then turned round and growled at him. Popo backed up to the lawn in surprise (none of the local dogs do THAT on their walks past the house on leads), Yujiro grabbed the hosepipe and we gave the foxy visitor a wet farewell. 

Saturday, 30 July 2011

I hate F#$!=ing Family Trips.

Hate 'em.
I think I had the "Family Group Fun" gene removed at birth because the whole let's-go-out-together-and-do-something-together-even-it-isn't-so-fun thing....bores me F######ing stupid!!!!

How do people do years and years of this?
Like those Hollywood movies about businesspeople who inherit a baby/toddler/teenager and don't know what to do - me and Family Trips. Oh God.
I'm an only child with older, working parents - I enjoy doing things on my own or with one other person. If there is a problem you can ammend the plans and there is a 100% or 50% chance you can do what you want.
In a family group you are stuck in not-fun have-to hell.

But it all started ok.
I got home mid-afternoon to water garden, pack supermarket food bits into the backpack, fold up the garden chair, prep Okaasan, play with cats etc etc.

Even managed to have a Moment in Memory of My Dad: a student had given me a can of a drink called Pim's, it's a popular summer party drink in the UK and as I drank it I remembered that my Dad loved the I had a little quiet Dad Memory Moment in the afternoon sunshine in the garden.

Anyway. Oyomesan On Duty.
5.30 pm got Okaasan ready to go - made sure she had the right things to take with her and left unnecessary stuff at home. Walked with her to the subway station. Crowds of people starting to gather, girls in yukata summer kimono - the clip on sash (obi) popped off one girl and Okaasan scurried to help her put it back on which was sweet.
Rode the subway into town - Okaasan got the old people's seat in the corner and I could stand nearby with the camping chairs and backpack of food. The pink flowery yukata-wearing girl next to me..was actually a boy with a blonde wig which kept slipping.

At the Susukino subway station Yujiro met us with his bike taxi and took us to the riverside park - fun actually to ride in the bike taxi and wave to people. Okaasan all giggly.

All good.
Saki, Yoko, Kevin and Ikuko...Okaasan and Yujiro behind.

Then....6.20 pm Yujiro dropped us in the park and went off to return his taxi to the garage. I set us up on a bench by the river, some friends found us and came to say hello, and we watched the crowds gather and the kids playing in the water.

And waited.
And waited.

Yujiro took for bloody ever to come back....30 minutes or more I sat there trying to chat Okaasan along about kids and water and fireworks and yukata...and yes...many, many, many  times the story of how she and a friend had stayed in the Tobu Hotel when they came to Sapporo.
Finally he came back. And then - he started talking about going to buy beer somewhere - NO!!!!!!!! DON'T leave me again!! I'll get the beer for you, YOU sit here with your mother....pleeeeeeese.
So he did.
I got beer and came back. We opened up the supermarket packs of food and ate.
And waited some more. 
I stayed in the Tobu Hotel when I came to Sapporo.

The Fireworks Display was due to start at 7.45 pm....we sat there for ages waiting...
At 7.30 pm Okaasan asked: "Are the fireworks finished then?"
To all the friends and students who have recently said to me: "Oh, but Okaasan looks so normal!"...this is the reality - Okaasan had NO idea sitting there in the dusk with us in a crowded park by the river...have I watched fireworks yet or not??? She had no memory of what had happened there.

Finally they started. 
And we couldn't see the F#)&$"!?*`##ing things.
Hidden behind buildings.
Don't know why. Many more high buildings in Sapporo now? Less money spent on big fireworks that can be seen from downtown? The Lord Almighty determined to F#$( with me?
Our friends disappeared in the crowds to get a better view, everyone got up and crossed the big road to get a better view...we kept moving the camping chairs and Okaasan .....moving...moving..
Finally watched the display through the streetsigns and electricity cables near a road packed with crawling cars....a complete failure as a firework watching experience.

And Okaasan shat her pants.
I could smell it and there was a stain on the camping chair.
Even though we kept pointing out the toilets - because this was afterall why we had chosen this place for the evening - she still shat her pants.

F!$&()?*`=)'(%"!"ing Family Trips.

I hate 'em.

Happy Family Trip to the Fireworks...or Don't Believe the Happy Smiley Faces in Photographs Because It Ain't True.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Hot and On Duty.

I've managed a week without too much Okaasan interaction - three evening classes and one night out with Yujiro and friends - so could kid myself that I DON'T live with an old lady and her underpants.

But I do.

Tonight is the annual, big fireworks display in Sapporo and we have a major plan to take Okaasan. Last night after work we held a planning meeting and weighed up all the possible combinations of car/taxi/subway/bike taxi vs the different firework viewing locations and their access to decent toilets...and the pros and cons of dinner in different locales, and times...and ...and...
So, I am in charge of taking Okaasan from the house and going by subway to meet Yujiro downtown...taking some garden chairs and snacks. Then the three of us will go (by bike taxi!) and find a space by the river, in the park and near the toilets.....
I think this means I will have about 30 mins of woman to woman time with Okaasan....unless we have another mess-up like the park festival and Yujiro gets held up at work and leaves me to cope alone.

And so: On Duty.

;-( Yesterday was my Dad's birthday. I couldn't think how to mark the occasion at all, but think about past years when there would always be a big lunch out for major eating. And probably a present of colourful socks. Two years ago he died. Sometimes...many doesn't seem at all real. 
This is obviously because I am living overseas and I don't have the painful reality of his physical absence from my life. But the date July 28th came up and bit me.

I saw an interesting movie at the weekend:  Life in a Day. It's a documentary, putting together many thousands of You Tube videos sent in by people on July 24 2010, all over the world....the happiness, the sadness, the crazy, the ordinary.
Made me think. Made me grateful for the comfortable life I lead with electricity, water, money and food and love.
Also made me think: what was I doing? what was happening July 24th last year? Getting fatter for sure, because I joined Curves gym around then and didn't know yet about my ovaries...and my step-mum was alive and in hospital, and I was wondering about a holiday in Hawaii.

And that week we took Okaasan to see the city fireworks. 
No change there then.

Monday, 25 July 2011

A perfect weekend.

Had me a weekend.
It was perfect.

Saturday - read newspapers in bed, gardening, BBQ a deux with Yujiro, movie on TV, polite dinner with Okaasan, Tv, bed.

Sunday - made SCONES for breakfast and ate them with raspberry jam and cream, then spur-of-the-moment decision to go to Ecorinmura Gardens near Eniwa and enjoy the plants and fantastical structures in the reformed farmland created by a famous British garden designer.
What is it? (hint: South America).

 Then home via some shopping, gave Okaasan some watermelon, and had me...some more scones with jam and cream..... then met Yujiro for a free movie preview - VERY good...Ridley and Tony Scott's "Life in a Day" made up of millions of YouTube harvested videos of July 24 2010 ordinary life and people all round the world.

The tomato tree - one plant growing in water produces thousands of fruit!

I cooked and left flatfish for Okaasan's dinner. She heated it and ate it ok, but when we came home she was a bit tetchy...something about the cats were outside her windows and we were out so she didn't know what to do with them etc etc...but basically ok.

A little personal triumph - going to this big show garden park. I've wanted to go for ages, but in the past 2 years I knew I couldn't walk around it with my injuerd knee. Yesterday I did. Wore my knee supportband, but I did it. Walked and enjoyed.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Shopping for Tohoku.

Here's a great idea to help people in Sendai, Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima directly.
Go shopping for them on the Amazon Japan website!

There is no point in having a blog with 36 followers and sometimes as many as 70 people dropping by in a day if I don't use it for a good cause.

So let's forget the mundane of Okaasan's dirty underwear and my gardening....and remember 4 months on after the earthquake and tsunami, then nuclear meltdowns of northern Japan.

I hear about this from Vicky - who organised the highly successful Walkathon for Tohoku.

Amazon Japan website has a section where evacuation centers and volunteer groups working the  disaster area can put up their Wish Lists of things they need to make life bearable for everyone in hot, humid Tohoku.
The Wishes range from cleaning supplies to storage boxes, from slippers to cold drinks.
You choose what you'd like to buy and Amazon Japan will deliver it for free. :-))

The site is mostly in Japanese, but if you click on one of the group names - there are about 30 groups - you can see a photo and profile of it and the work it does. Then the ordering is ok in English.
This week I bought five cans of insect repellent smoke and sent it to Miyagi. Temperatures are high now in Miyagi and I am sure evacuees and volunteers need protection from insects. I see from the tracking system that my present was delievered yesterday afternoon.

There are big items and small required, and I am sure it will change as the season changes and people try to rebuild a life.

Go on ! Why not? A little Shopping Therapy is good for many. many people!

here is the website.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Gonna get meself a little R'nR....

booked my domestic flights for the Australian holiday - on air miles....gonna go gonna go gonna go gonna go



Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Coming...and going.

Okaasan managed to give us new confusions last night.

I got home just after 6 pm.
Okaasan's shoes were in the entrance hall, facing the step where she'd stepped out of them.
Yujiro was upstairs half way down his first beer after work.
He and I chatted in front of the Tv a while.
Then I went downstairs to throw together dinner..."Okaasan's home isn't she?" I asked him..."Yes, she said she'd just got home just before I came back" he said.

Ok. Great. Everyone home. Start making dinner.

In the kitchen I did a quick "hello" to Okaasan in her room before I started dinner prepping. Okaasan was in her clothes and fussing around with bag and scarf.

Then she appeared in the kitchen...heading for the door.....handbag and scarf all set.

"Err? Are you going out again? I thought you just came back?"
"Just came back? No, I haven't been out yet....I'm just going to the Seicomart, I'll be back soon....."
"Err...dinner is in 30 mins. I thought you'd been out already!"
"Me? no.....I haven't been out yet today.."

And off she went. Again? Or for the first time?
We don't know. And she doesn't either.
This is the amazing thing about dementia sufferers: they can tell you something with such confidence that you don't suspect it isn't true. It isn't a lie, it isn't necessarily that they don't remember - more that they say what is expected or what people usually say in a given situation.

So when Yujiro got home Okaasan told him she too had just got home...and when she saw me 30 mins later she told me...I'm just going out, haven't been out all day.

I don't think she would have the energy to go out twice, so I'm guessing the first statement was not true...but the second was. Although...her shoes were in the entrance hall facing the "in" direction....

Confused? We all are.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Looooong weekend......

Scenes  from a Hokkaido weekend......

Husky pups at a dogsledding company....
Good 3 day weekend here....rained a lot for 2 days and then sunshine....I met old students for lunch and dinner, and joined a friend and her son for a day out to friends who have a dogsledding business...we went to a beautiful campsite near Asahikawa...went out in their canoe and enjoyed green and flowers and bugs....and venison on the BBQ!

Okaasan all well-behaved. Managed to do a polite few words of greeting to the guest in the kitchen Sunday lunchtime before heading out for a walk. Gave me the time to go in and find a large bag of dirty underwear..and another of rotting flowers...and do a clean sweep of her room.

All well here....makes for a boring blog really...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

No Rainy Season.

"...Hokkaido lacks a rainy season and is spared most of the typhoons that ravage the rest of Japan."

(Hiking Japan website).

Hmm.. Maybe time to update the tourist blurb?

Just had 24 hours of non-stop something wet falling out of the sky. Obviously NOt rain. Not sure what.

We stayed home all day watching TV and showing eachother funny YouTube videos. There are many bad things about the Internet, but for those moments in conversation when you need a fact or a picture - wonderful -....

Look! The coach of the Swedish  women's soccer team looks like....Boris Becker!

* Look! Here is that Japanese men dance group doing their robot walks in New York.

* Look! Here is a 1930's map of Sapporo that shows our area as seriously blank countryside.

And still that wet stuff fell from the sky.
The cats kept going to the front door to look, and then came back upstairs and paced up and down.
Okaasan snoozed by the TV.

At lunchtime Yujiro checked she wanted to eat some lunch.
No....I had an upset stomach last night while I was sleeping, "toilet accident" in my pants over there - NO ! No! Don't clear it away, i'll 
do it later. I shouldn't eat any food.

So she didn't. And I made a mental note to go into her room as soon as possible and hunt down the soiled pants. Yujiro thinks they are under a newspaper by the window.

Of course it's gross that I have to go hunting for my boyfriend's mother's dirty underwear...but it is also good that she told him about this...some kind of progress on the trust levels. I guess.

We took Okaasan out in the evening to a local noodle restaurant, just to get her UP off the carpet and AWAY from the TV for an hour.

And still that stuff fell from the sky.

*  Only exciting news: I made application on the ticket agency webbsite for London Olympic tickets...on 14 different days! Only Athletics and Gymnastics. No chance at all really. But giving myself 14 chances. If ALL my applications are successful I may have to sell my soul and become a Susukino hostess to pay for it all.

I think the typeface here is very strange....I tried to copy and paste the website quote at the top and it's buggered up the whole page.
Hope it's legible.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Money, money...oh..

Okaasan didn't have enough money to pay in a cafe again yesterday.

This time SHE remembered, because she got home about 5 p.m. and asked Yujiro for the money...but it was pouring with rain outside and we didn't think she should set off again all the way back downtown.
Yujiro called the cafe and said he'd come in with the money today. Only small money.


Poor Okaasan looked very unhappy about it. Sat at the kitchen table saying "I must be going senile, I don't have enough money to pay for things etc etc" I tried to make reassuring noises about how Sapporo is a friendly city, how Okaasan looks like an honest person, how the shop staff don't worry etc etc
Yujiro wasn't super comforting to his mum - instead he TOLD her that she hadn't paid twice at another restaurant recently and that they'd called the house to ask for their money! I could have strangled him. It wasn't the best thing to say to Okaasan at this point - to tell her she'd done worse than she thought.
Poor lady.

Anyway. She settled down by the TV. He called the cafe. I had an early dinner and went off to an evening class. He'll go in and pay today.

But it IS our fault. We give Okaasan Y1,000 or Y2,000 so she can do a bit of shopping, but sometimes in our morning rush to work we forget to check how much she has in her purse, she doesn't ask...and then the moment of truth is when she gets the bill in  a cafe or restaurant and has to confess in public that she can't pay.
She must feel embarrassed. Japanese people get embarrassed about all sorts of things in public life that us brash Westeners don't think twice about...but for anyone this situation is cringey.
We MUST make sure she has enough money. Not too much - otherwise we'll have a house full of random stuff she has heard mention of on TV or in the newspaper...or our recent conversation.
But she must have enough to go out and do stuff around town.

Yujiro is worried it's an iceberg situation - we only know the tip of the problem. That probably all over town there are places where Okaasan didn't pay, and didn't remember to go back. Or shops where she has asked them to keep something for her - and then never goes back. He is worried one day someone will call the over reaction I think....most shops are pretty kind to confused old ladies. Even in a big city like Sapporo.

Anyway. Money. Must give it to her more.

* I've booked Okaasan's Birthday Surprise hair appointment at a nice salon downtown recommended by a student (HI Tamiko!!!! How are you today???). The salon is nice, the owner is a respectable older lady...I hope it will all be a good experience for Okaasan. And after her hair do we'll take her out for a birthday dinner. All of this is next month.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Another mis-step.

Okaasan almost fell over again yesterday.
LUCKILY spun out of control on a second unexpected step and crashed backwards into a wall - with Oyomesan running to grab her shoulders and hold her up.
Phew! Nice catch.

We'd eaten in the local curry restaurant with a Polish Couch Surfing guest. He didn't speak any Japanese, so it was all in English - and Okaasan looked tired after hula dance...but she ate her way through curry...and then as we got up from the table she went down one step into the main restaurant area - and piroutted off the second step and into the restaurant wall.
No injuries. Just a shock for all of us.

Funnily - 30 seconds before...we'd all watched Yujiro do almost the same thing - mis-judge the steps and stagger sideways.
But I guess Okaasan didn't remember that when she came to go down the same steps?
30 seconds is pretty hard for a dementia sufferer!

Monday, 11 July 2011

There are PEOPLE in my home :-(

FORTY people (more?) came to lunch yesterday in our the grassy space under the subway the street outside the house....
My was a large BBQ. First guest arrived at 11 am and I think everyone left by 8 pm.

Yujiro seemed to have invited anyone he has ever met, while I limited myself to English teacher friends (including Vicky and her family and friends of Hyotenka), and students-I-don't-mind-getting-drunk-in-front-of, Couch Surfing friends and actual...well FRIENDS.

Lots of meat and fish, and great salads brought by guests, and CARROT CAKE, and snacks and cheese and fruit...and..and...

Okaasan - who is after all, supposedly, meant to be half this blog?
She went out about 12.30 - with Yujiro's encouragement. Enough money to lunch and shop...and off she trotted. She made sure several times that nobody was going to use her room or its TV...and then threw a blanket all over her sofa to cover the jumble of underwear all over it - because from the kitchen you can see all of this.
I find this reaction interesting - she KNOWS its messy and shouldn't be seen by guests...but doesn't do anything, ever, to clean it up.

Great BBQ...(thanks to Akira-san for these guest pix cos I guess should preserve people's privacy...)

By 6.30 pm I was so knackered. Felt I'd spent all day going in and out of the house carrying stuff, prepping food, washing dishes, sorting trash....
Yujiro was starting cooking even more food for the 10 or so guests who were still there - I made my excuses and "went home" by coming back up to our second floor apartment. Found one cat bug-eyed and nervous in the closet. The other was nowhere to be seen. Collapsed in front of the TV.

About 7.15 pm I looked out the window for the missing cat...but I suddenly saw Okaasan...way out across the carparking area the other side of the subway line. Standing there, holding her shopping bag. Looking at the house.
Can I come home? There are still people in my house/garden?
She could of course see and hear the BBQ Hold Outs gathered round the grill.
I didn't go downstairs...let Yujiro welcome his own mother back and see to her dinner needs. I'd switched off for the day.

About 7.45 pm I looked out the window again for the still missing cat.
Okaasan was STILL there in the parking lot across the subway line.
Looking at the house.
She hadn't come back. People in the house. So she stood there for half an hour in the dark in a construction company parking lot.

Oyomesan Confession: I did nothing. I went back to watching TV. Yes, I felt bad for her. Yes, an 80 year old lady shouldn't be standing in the dusk waiting to be allowed home. Yes, I am entirely selfish. I was knackered and zoned out of Yujiro and his BBQ and his mother and ...and ...and...
If it had actually been minus 5 and snowing I think I might have gone and fetched her in.
But it was a balmy evening. And I didn't want to have to start thinking about what to cook for her dinner. I wanted her to come back home past Yujiro so that HE would have to put his brain in gear and look after his mother. And hopefully the Hold Out Guests would finally take the hint and go home...
So I went back to watching TV........
I am entirely selfish.

I think Okaasan did come home shortly after - and the Hold Out Guests left by 8 pm, Yujiro attended to Okaasan's needs and cleared the last of the garden stuff. 
The missing cat came home.
We stumbled around in exhaustion for a bit.
Fell into bed by 8.45 pm. 9.15 pm an invited guest called my cell phone..."I'm just outside your house! I just came for the BBQ...but I guess it's finished? ok..bye!"..........................

What are we to do with Okaasan and this Guests in the House situation? Being a bit shy and not wanting to join in parties is understandable. But surely she can come home and just say "hello" to people as she is walking to the front door and heading into her room etc?
WHY this over-reaction of waiting in the street near the house until the coast is clear before coming home? She did this at least twice last year too. Or coming home and then entering the house through the living room door windows? It's so....what?...childish????
Of course we say to Okaasan many times - you don't HAVE to go out, but if you do...just come home any time and you don't have to join the party...just greetings and go inside...of course...


We don't have a lot of people at the house. Well, okay - today was 40 plus, and last weekend was 15. But that is probably it for this month. After that it'll be one or two friends at most. We need our social life. 

I hate to think of the huge negative thoughts building in Okaasan's brain after the stress of I Can't Go Home to My Home Because There Are People There.

I should have gone out and been all welcoming to her and brought her home....

I didn't.

Oyomesan minus points. A whole bunch of them.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Family guilt trip.

Sports cat.

Another Family Trip out yesterday - this time to a hot spring/public bath.
He and I are hosting a BBQ party today - latest guest list was 45 plus! - so we felt guilty that Okaasan would have a Sunday feeling excluded from all those noisy youngsters in the garden.

He'd bought discounted public bath tickets for a place that was way out in the suburbs - BUT the free shuttle bus starts from our local subway station. And there was one glass of free beer per ticket too!
So just before 4 pm we managed to get Okaasan away from her laundry rearranging and TV and down to the bus stop.
Had ourselves a little trip out for bath and massage chairs and dinner.

All went well, although again I don't really know what to do IN the bathhouse with Okaasan. Usually women who go to these places sit companionably next to eachother and wash and then sit together in the different pools of water and chat.
It isn't something I particularly WANT to do...but feel I maybe should....but..

Maybe Okaasan felt the same about me?

After a quick wash next to me she took off on her own for the outside pool...and then...somehow....we managed to basically avoid eachother for the next 40 minutes! I blamed my blindness-without-glasses-in-a-steamy-room...which is a nice, almost-believable excuse. In fact I did spy on her across the steam a bit, to make sure she was ok - and she was. She's a Japanese woman - she's been going to these places for years and is physically ok at climbing up and down the various steps and in and out of water.
I checked in with her a few times at various points around the bathhouse - but actually managed to get some private soaking time.

After the bath we met up with Yujiro for massage chairs/beds and luckily found a very chatty chair/bed salesman who came from Tokyo, so he and Okaasan chatted on about subway lines and  Tokyo.
Dinner in the family restaurant with noisy kids running up and down squeaking in their pyjamas...and then the 7.30 pm shuttle bus home.

Ahead of us today: vast BBQ party...we went to COSTCO yesterday morning and bought it all up. Yujiro needed a Boy Toy, so he bought a coffin-like cooler box, the kind fishermen put their big catches in - when not in use for BBQ drinks it could be a good cat playbox...or....Okaasan transporter....
And I have made another carrot cake - this time all cooked through. Gonna have me some serious carrot cake this time. Last weekend in front of students I had to be content with a lady-like slice - I actually just want a huge SLAB of cake. I may not share it with BBQ guests at all, just lock myself in the utility room and stuff the lot.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Eating out.

He got a call from a restaurant downtown - Okaasan had been in there recently and eaten a meal...but hadn't had enough money to pay for it, so she'd promised to come back later with the money....and had never come back.

THIS is one of the (many) reasons it is good she is living with us now. Otherwise the Sapporo economy would nosedive as she left a trail of unpaid bills around town.

We usually only give her Y1,000 - Y2,000 for random shopping and snack buying. This is only about $10 and it is more than enough for the kind of snacks/magazines shopping she actually needs to do for herself. If we give her more all sorts of foodstuff gets bought and left in her room for days and starts to rot.
If she needs more money for bigger purchases (pants/flowery scarfs/tea pots) she asks for the money.

I'm constantly surprised that she accepts us doling out money to her like this - in fact she often asks me for the cash because Yujiro has told her that if he isn't around - she should ask me. She tends to forget the first part of that information and even if he and I are both there in the kitchen - she asks me! He gives me a stash of money to dole out to her...slowly.

The not-having-enough-money-to-pay situation may also explain why sometimes Okaasan comes home looking really unhappy and we wonder what happened while she was out. Sunday night was that I think - at 3 pm here she was all smiley and chatty - by 6.30 pm after a trip out, she was almost silent and complaining about her tooth pain...and not eating. Maybe she ate went to that restaurant, had the embarrassment of not being able to pay and then came home with a vaguely not-happy mood.
We don't know.

Anyway - Sapporo is such a kind city it is wonderful that restaurant owners will let old ladies pay later on meals eaten - and remember to keep the telephone number of the old lady customers! This restaurant is a branch of a chain that Okaasan used to use in Saitama and she often goes there - so they know her.

And finally: Culture Quiz.
Which doorstop object is a sign in Japan that here-be-gangsters?
a) The plastic sandal?
b) The ceramic cat with tattoos?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Knackered. But happy.

The Carrot Cake just after cooking.

5 am of party day I realize the cake middle isn't cooked...scooped out the center...

Zapped it in the microwave (thanks Heather!) and then got icing...

Ready for my students to arrive. Roses standing to attention.

Decorated the car to sign: English Tea Party HERE!

and you know what? I DIDN'T get a photo of the scones! 18 of the wonderful things I cooked in 4 batches since 6 am....and they were all in a basket and looked great. And I didn't take a picture!

* Okaasan went out for the afternoon: "I am shy about meeting people I don't know...", she came back and entered the house through her room window doors again... but after everyone had gone she offered to help me clear up the bombshell-struck kitchen...and Yujiro came home and we 3 washed and dried stuff together.
I am so exhausted now. But it was a success!

* But I have to share this Okaasan Gem: just as she was going out before my party started she said: "You you know what yakuza are? (Japanese word for gangsters). That big sandal that you use to hold the door open???...err...that kind of sandal is only worn by gangsters! Your guests will be shocked if they see it in the entrance hall!!! You shouldn't use it...."

This is a man's summer sandal that I bought at a very respectable Sapporo department store because my feet are too big for Japanese women's summer sandals when I occasionally wear summer kimono for festivals.

But all this time - we've been living here 2 years now - Okaasan has worried that people will think gangsters live here because of the sandal I use to prop open the door for the cats....
No wonder the poor lady has stress. 

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Tea pots and soggy cake?

This is a carrot cake.
A little singed on top. hit the roof of the oven and collapsed....
The center feels a bit...soggy.....
I've surfed the Internet for helpful for hints about how to mount a Cake Rescue with the help of icing...and I think it'll be ok......
The Battle of the Scones will start early tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile I did a final furious 2 hours in the garden to make it look a little presentable for the 14? 16? students who may come for English Tea Party tomorrow afternoon. Three rose bushes are flowering and another one might be tempted to flower if I go out and wave the hairdryer near it...

I feel a bit nervous to be honest. I have lovely students. But inviting them to my home makes me nervous. I have cleaned the entrance hall and the toilet and I HOPE nobody gets any further than that!
Last student on Friday afternoon was chatting about her roses and garden, then she whipped out her cell phone to show my pictures of it - gorgeous! She should be inviting ME to look at her garden...I feel she (and others) will be disappointed.
But, it isn't meant to be an Open Garden contest - just a casual, relaxing "Thankyou" party to all the students who stayed with me over 2 years of cancelled classes and hollow-eyed teacher.

Meanwhile...on Planet Okaasan.
We discovered why she had bought a nice, glass tea pot recently...and then not one...but TWO tea pot covers for it. 

We had thought it was strange, because she only drinks powdered, very special Japanese green tea. The tea pot - from a specialist shop downtown - is designed so the central net holds the tea leaves and you can see them opening up in the water. I'd removed it - okay stolen it - from her room and started using it in my classroom.

I noticed when I was downtown a week back that these pots and covers are the shop's front display this month - along with a friendly sales lady who undoubtedly fished Okaasan in to look and then buy.

Then this week we discovered why she had bought pot and two covers...she thought it would be useful for taking iced water to hula dance classes!
(which also explains why we found the tea pot in the freezer once...)
Of course, it's a tea pot, and even in a cover, would be totally unsuitable for taking along in a bag of stuff to hula classes.
I bought a 500ml PET Bottle cover with strap from the camping shop and Yujiro gave that to Okaasan...and we hope...that will be ok.

All pretty boring really - but reminds us that the strange things Okaasan does have some kind of logic to her - it might be misplaced and wrong...but somewhere there is a reason for her actions.

Latest on the dental work - she complained 30 seconds before dinner tonight was served that her gum felt swollen and that she wouldn't be eating anything.
This time it was HIS cooking and frustration.
She picked her way through the salad.
Then Yujiro tried to get her to take one of the antibiotics for the swelling. Adament refusal.

Shan't eat. It'll get better that way.
Sigh.....Back to that then.

Anyway....tomorrow I shall bake scones and they will be a wonderful success - and the sun shall shine and the English Tea Party will be delightful! ;-))

Friday, 1 July 2011

I injured myself?

Okaasan has another face injury - but doesn't know why.
A smallish cut just above her right eye, and the area around it is a little swollen.

But, of course, she doesn't remember how or why.
She says it doesn't hurt and we don't think it is serious...but we wonder how....

Maybe...just maybe...I think she poked herself in the face with the laundry drying pole? I found a rose bush planter a little shaken up 2 days ago, and some earth on the ground - I thought cats or crows had pushed it over.
Now I wonder whether Okaasan knocked the rose bush planter over when she was trying to move the laundry poles? And poked herself in the face as well?
Could be. Who knows?

Anyway - she is off again today for maybe the last dentist visit.
I am 2 days away from welcoming students to my garden for English Tea Party with roses, scones and carrot cake - hear THIS...I tracked down Clotted Cream in Mitsukoshi Department Store yesterday (it's the Harrods' of Japan and very pricey) - the small jar of Clotted Cream cost Y1,500!!! That's $15!! No way is it enough for 10 plus I will make up some fake scone topping with Mascorpone cheese and whipping cream.