Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Hula storm clouds gathering...

'ere we go again.
Nearly September, yet another hula class performance day approaching....and Okaasan is getting the willeys.

Yesterday I reminded her that Sept. 11 is performance day (probably news to her) and would she like to go to the hairsalon before it and have a trim etc?
Hmmm...well...maybe ok...hmm.. hula performace...not so fun recently.....I think I might stop....shall I stop? Hmm.. not so good...don't like the performance day...new dance....etc etc....

I made some gentle remarks about performance nerves and it'll be alright on the night etc.....and left the topic.

Yujiro and I talked later: yet again it would be better if we could find a group that doesn't have these performance days which are taken so seriously with new dance routines to learn. Just a hobby group. And maybe this week and next week we won't talk about hula at all and probably Okaasan won't go - because she basically doesn't know what day it is unless we leave a big sign on the kitchen table - so if she is absent from class for two weeks she'll just miss the performance day altogether.

Maybe, maybe, maybe....there are of course many hula dance groups - but we need to find one that is near a subway station etc so that Okaasan can go there in the 5 months a year Sapporo is buried in snow.

Yujiro had another Velo Taxi and Dementia lecture, said he learned a lot and realized he does/has done a lot of the Things You Shouldn't Do ( like get angry, ask yes/no questions, quiz about details, correct strange information)....and that he learned about the importance of encouraging the dementia sufferer to DO what they can, however small - things around the house.
Okaasan does a bit of clothes washing, loves hanging clothes out to dry and rearranging OUR laundry because it's been hung out all wrong, and she likes washing dinner dishes, arranging flowers, destroying climbing morning glory plants..........

Monday, 29 August 2011

Just a happy story...

A "heartful" story, instead of griping and sniping.

Yesterday Yujiro and I played cupid with the Velo Taxi.

A few weeks ago I got an email from an ex-colleague saying that he was tackling the Hokkaido Marathon this year - first full marathon etc etc.
AND - at the Finish Line? Planning to PROPOSE to his longtime girlfriend!
Could we arrange for the Velo Taxi to pick them up after that and take them home?

So.....I bought cheap decorations from Daiso and Donkiote, decorated up a fan with hearts and glitter, decorated the taxi with twinkly hearts tinsel and balloons and here we are!

CONGRATULATIONS to Michiko and Dave!
Great proposal idea Dave - and thankgoodness: a) you finished the race and didn't get carted off on a stretcher and b) Michiko said "Yes".
He even had the ring in his pocket as he ran....4 hours and 45 minutes.

Friday, 26 August 2011


Still managing to avoid Okaasan - it's a GOOD week! - had another evening class and  late dinner with the Couch Surfer.
Yujiro stayed home all day because of rain and fed Okaasan lunch and dinner, before coming out to talk Brazil-and-all-things-football with our  Brazilian Couch Surfer.
Okaasan slept most of the afternoon, and when he woke her up at 6.30 pm for dinner...she thought it was 6.30 AM and was all confused as to why "dinner" was being talked about...and didn't want much anyway because of course she'd slept on the carpet for hours.

Old people sleep a LOT don't they? Or is this Okaasan and dementia?
Okaasan often sleeps for whole afternoons, and then gets active late afternoon....and evening...nighttime she is often sitting there watching TV or washing underwear at 2 am or 3 am....Dementia sufferers and "sun-downing" is a recognised condition, for some reason sufferers get active late in the day.

Postbox/morning glory - my anger is subsiding, I can now ruefully examine they remaining plants and wonder whether they will bother flowering now at all. If I meet the postman I'll ask him about it all, but I won't lay in wait for him....life is too short to spend energy on that. :-))

Dad - doing ok, although I was a bit weepy yesterday. Had a good howl in the shower. And I sent an email to the church warden and his wife in Dad's village and asked whether the vicar can mention Dad in prayers this coming Sunday. Dad wasn't religious, but he went to that church every Sunday for years with his churchgoing wife, because he enjoyed the community aspects of it all....and I would like to think that this week in that small community in England some people are remembering Dad, if only for a moment.
Many of the people in the village adopted one of the many stone statues that Dad made, now many gardens in that village have "one of Eric's animals or faces" - so maybe they could go and say "hello" to their statue or something...I did here to the dog and bird I have in my garden.

And finally...

In my many trawlings round blogosphere and news sites for stuff about dementia I came across this amazing story - a sports coach and a bishop who are bravely going public with their Alzheimer's and trying to continue to work.
Courageous people.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


Exchanged a few civil words with the old bat yesterday - but I had an evening class and an arriving Couch Surfer...so I could avoid Family Dinner.
I came home mid-afternoon to take a break, and lay in wait for the postman to get to the bottom of the postbox/morning glory complaint. But..... he sailed right by on his motorscooter because we didn't have any mail! Bugger. I'll have to send myself a letter to make sure he comes when I am here?

No, not even I am going to go that far.

Yujiro's take on all of this - apart from obviously thinking it is a storm in a doorstep planter - is that Okaasan probably met the postman and apologised to him for the mail box being covered up, and then decided to help him and me by ripping up those troublesome plants that were stopping the flow of bank statements and catalogue advertising into our lives.

Ho hum. The morning glories won't grow tall enough again now, September is a-coming and the temperatures here will fall over the coming weeks...

Okaasan has nested back into her room with the heated table and a much reduced pile of stuff on the table in front of her. But I noticed she has already taken off all the clothes' drawers labels....and stuck them INSIDE the drawers....which of course is a big help to knowing what goes in what drawer...we tried and failed. 
But at least the carpet doesn't have fleas in it anymore and the table trash mountain is lower.

Dad's ash scattering place in his garden - guarded by the stone dog he made.

Yesterday was the day my dad died 2 years ago.
We think.
He probably died on the evening of August 24th after visiting his wife in hospital and coming home to cook sausages for his dinner. His pancreas exploded or something and he collapsed on the living room carpet and hit his head on the fireplace - that morning he'd actually felt sick enough to call out the doctor, who came for a short visit and told him to "take it easy"....
We guess/hope that dad died quickly with his dog Jenny by his side.
Two days later the postman found him.

Yesterday I just had a normal working day really. I put a picture of Dad by my bedside and thought about him a lot. How life has changed so much in 2 years. Recently the lawyer and the accountants are getting dad and step-mum's wills sorted out, so some money came through. It's nice to have some money, but I'd rather have Dad and Jane.

It gets easier, little by little, but I still get sudden sadness and start crying. Wrote an email to a friend who is managing bank stuff for me in England - and found myself sitting here at the computer crying for my Dad.

And so. Onwards.

Australian holiday is only 4 weeks ago today :-)) I will teach my Thursday morning class and head out to the airport for sunshine, blue water, Great Barrier Reef and good times with my mate Loretta in Melbourne.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Holding onto civility. Just.

Haven't murdered her yet by wrapping Morning Glory tendrils round her neck.

Avoided her this morning - which is easy because she usually sits in her room with the TV while we go about the morning routine and leave for work.

But I spitefully dumped all her washed/dried underpants and stuff on the kitchen table and left it there for her. Usually I'd sneak in while she was out and scatter them artfully round her room to keep up the Great Pretense that "Yes! You are doing all your own laundry! Horray for elderly independence!".
This morning I just dumped it on the kitchen table and left her to find it and think whatever she liked.
If challenged about this my response will be brutal: "Yes, I come into your room to collect dirty laundry because you can't keep up with all the washing of it...and it smells."

Went off to work. Met Yujiro for a mammoth shop - COSTCO has Halloween AND Christmas decorations in August!!!! - and we came home to face....the horror...oh the horror...Family Dinner After a Fight.

I hate having to do this: be all grown up about it. Have to be nice cos we have to keep Okaasan sweet and happy otherwise she'll be baying at the moon and creating havoc in the shops and restaurants of Sapporo.

But....I'm British. Generations of genetic programming into stiff upper lips and being polite in adversity.
So I smiled and served salad and soup and pizza, and chilled water etc etc.
I gave Okaasan two slices of pizza on her plate - and she sweetly said it was too much and would I like one instead....and passed it over the table to me....
and so it all went....civility. Nothing like Japanese people and British people to fake civility....
Kept my eyes down on the food as we ate and joined Yujiro's conversational attempts in the OH! so interesting conversations about the weather/the sauce bottle/how chips are made/tomato types/Brazilian food...

And then it was over and I could escape.

Sadly missed the postman because we were out doing the mammoth shopping (COSTCO doesn't stock mammoth steak for some reason, they should), so I still don't know the full story of the postbox and the obstructive flowers.

*** :-(( But poignant moment today in class: I handed back one student (Hi Atsuko!!!) her English diary and glanced down at the writing I'd checked and marked 10 days ago before the summer break.
She'd written about her wonderful Morning Glory plants and included a photograph. And I'd written a little note back to her at the bottom of the page...with a cute diagram...detailing MY Morning Glory planter with the mail box etc etc....

Oh poignant.
Last year's Morning Glory show at the front door....

Monday, 22 August 2011

Fury fury fury.

Came home to this. "This" is....was...the Morning Glory plants I have been growing from seed....and when they were strong enough I trailed them up the ugly metal bars by the front door and across the mail box and on upwards...upwards....lovingly making sure each little tendril had somewhere to climb. Getting ready to see it flower in September. Did the same last year.
Morning Glory are an autumn flower here and only grow until end of September or early October.
The postman and the mailman happily used the plastic basket I put at the bottom of the planter since 3 weeks ago - letters and newspapers fitted into it nicely. I'd covered up the mailbox at first with a piece of carboard - decorated with arrows pointing down at the basket below. But 2 weeks ago the shoots were covering the box enough to make that unnecessary....deliveries were fine...
Until an hour ago.

FUCKING Okaasan ripped it out this afternoon.
Yes. In that plastic bag in the foreground are the ripped up Morning Glory tendrils.

I am so angry my blood pressure is rising just writing this. If I stop you know I've had a heart attack.
I came home from work to find a bag of greenery on the table....I thought it was something Okaasan had bought...."what's this...?"
She claims that the postman complained about not-being-able-to-use-the-mailbox...because "in Japan you can't block the mailbox"...yadda yadda yadda yadda...

I was so angry. I shouted at her. I slammed doors. Shouted some more. "This is MY house! This is MY garden! If the postman isn't happy tell ME! This is between the postoffice and ME! How dare YOU rip up MY plants!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Why didn't you tell ME???????Why did you just rip up the plants????"

Oh fuck it .
And then? Because I am a wonderful Oyomesan I made pork and tofu soup for family dinner, and put the shopping in the fridge etc and laid the table - and came here to my classroom to do an evening class......

But tomorrow: I am going to talk to the postman and get to the bottom of this. He usually comes about 4 pm and I am guessing Okaasan met him today.....and he said "something" about the mailbox...and SHE decided to take action in MY GARDEN.

But for 3 weeks the postman has been perfectly happy to use the basket by the plant pot. Why now did he complain? Did he complain? 

Or: and this is really a scary thought? Is this Okaasan's way of getting back at me for all the room cleaning we did in her room on Saturday? Some twisted thing about damaging MY space?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Annual Cleaning

We did it.
Cleaned Okaasan's room. With her.
And she hasn't had a meltdown yet and accused me of stealing anything.

Cross your fingers folks!

Operation Cleaning commenced at 9 am sharp.
We vacumned both carpets, took them outside, took the undermats outside, vacumned all round the room.
Got Okaasan to start clearing rubbish off her table.
Mounds of : receipts, bits of paper cut into little notepads, clothes tags, newspaper cuttings, magazines, bits of tissue, orange peel, sweets in plastic bags, points cards from random coffee shops, more bits of paper, little face towels, MacDonalds plastic spoons, Seicomart plastic coffee cups, mail order leaflets, supermarket sale flyers, empty face cream packs, hair grips, needles, bits of hula dance accessories...etc etc etc.
Okaasan was fairly good about throwing stuff out...but everytime she wavered we'd hand her something and say "this is important isn't it, better put it over there"....and while she was crossing the room and her back was turned - we'd grab handfuls of rubbish and shove them into the bags.

After 30 minutes - wow! We found the table surface! I even got a wet cloth from the kitchen and we WIPED the table surface.

Then we got all the clothes off the sofa and I neatly folded them up and placed them to one side - so we could wash the sofa cover.

Then I rushed off to buy sticky labels, and Yujiro sat down with Okaasan and suggested labeling all the drawers in the chest so she would know WHAT was where..
"But I know what is in all the drawers!" she claimed....but actually just sat passively while I took all the drawers out on the carpet and put the folded clothes in their new homes.
We should have done this ages ago when we got this chest of drawers - because for someone with dementia it's a nightmare trying to remember what is in which drawer.

And from comments Okaasan made during the cleaning: ("Oh, that's dirty, I think/I put that out for washing/I'm taking that to the cleaners") I think I can get a clearer image of what Okaasan thinks she is always doing - she thinks that the clothes all around her on every surface are a cleaning/washing/drying in process - that she has JUST sat down for a few minutes to see something on TV and will be getting back to the laundry in a moment. 
Except her "moments" are days and days, weeks and weeks, months....
When I get dementia I will firmly believe that I am always "just" sitting down at the computer to play another move on Facebook's Wordscraper game...when in fact I have sat there for months staring at the screen....

So. wow. Can see the table surface. Can see the sofa surface. The carpet is clean. There aren't any underpants and socks and vests here and there...everywhere.

It was amazing. The room looks so, so , so much better.

We haven't done a cleaning like this for a year, since Okaasan went to that family wedding last September and I tried to do some cleaning just after my ovaries operation - and exhausted myself.

This time it was Yujiro and I together at full power/speed/deviousnous. 
And Okaasan...almost in agreement with what was happening to her room.

We put it all back an hour or two later, put enough stuff back on the table that she'll have things to sort through while she sits in front of the TV....

I don't care it all reverts back quickly - or if she doesn't use the labeled drawers at all....we tried...we tried.

Now we just have to hope that SHE enjoys the new, clean environment...and doesn't look around for someone to blame for that all important Seicomart receipt for a coffee and rice ball on December 14th  2010.......ahhh.....that  foreign woman... she comes into my room....that Oyomesan....ahhhhh.........


Saturday, 20 August 2011


My Dad died 2 years ago August 24th.

While Japanese people sit in their cars for hours in traffic jams and go to the cemetary with candles and flowers for a 15-minute pray alongside crowds of people...me?....

I head to the best hotel buffet in town with a good friend (via a handy Velo Taxi!) and eat a vast, VAST French-theme buffet lunch of meat, and cheese, and marinated veggies, and fish, and soups, and desserts, and wine, and cheese, and wine...and....and...cute French waiter...and cheese...and pate...and raspberry tart...and ice cream...and....(repeat till waistband explodes...).

My dad loved a Good Lunch Out. So I've decided: every year around this time I shall go out with a friend and have a Good Lunch Out.
Hotel Mercure feast place...

No pictures of the Hotel Mercure, Susukino feast - because we were too busy eating and drinking and flirting with the young waiter....but my oh my.......it was wonderful.....Dad would have loved it and it reminded me so strongly of our last Good Lunch Out together just 10? days before he died when he took me to a hotel in Malvern in the UK and we had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the English countryside.

****AND!: Okaasan has ASKED us to clean her room!!!
Well, actually she has asked us to help her clean the carpet under her heated table nesting-place, because recently she has had many insect bites on her legs...
I feel pretty guilty about this - it is our fault for not vacumning her carpet enough.
The humid weather has activated all sorts of nasties in the carpet where she always sits, and eats and pisses....
We...well, ME usually - vacumn and clean her room when she is out. Doing it while she is there is tiresome because we try to throw stuff out (old papers/bags/rotting food) she is trying to save it to examine and consider for later. You can never clean as much as you want to when she is there watching and stressing.

But recently? I don't know. I haven't done it so much recently. It's been too hot to do ANYTHING? She hasn't been out while I am here at home? I've been lazy?
Not sure which excuse to use.

But an old lady has been bitten by nasty insect things in her grungy carpet....and today we are gonna clean that room like crazy.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Guilty carers....

We slipped a bit on the Okaasan care.
Went to meet a friend on the last night of the Sapporo Beer Garden - only planned to go for an hour - but then of course at 6.30 pm the attractions of Dinner with Okaasan vs. More Fun in the Beer Garden loomed.
And the Beer Garden won.

Yujiro called Okaasan at 6.30 pm to suggest looking in the fridge for food or going out.
She had just come back after a walk, so she wasn't happy.

When we got home at 9.30 pm she was waiting with complaints: you should tell me sooner! I went to the kaiten sushi place but the wait time was 90 mins. - so I didn't eat anything! There is nothing to eat in the kitchen! etc etc etc.

I snuck away upstairs so the full negative feeling could go all over him.
Next morning I chirpily took Okaasan's newspaper in to her...and we were home for lunch and dinner with her....so all seemed ok...

But....it just illustrates again...Okaasan isn't really able to cope in the kitchen alone.
The fridge WAS full of food actually - a block of tofu, eggs, vegetables, fish in seaweed packs etc - but Okaasan wasn't able to take any of that and make herself something to eat.
Usually at lunchtime when we are out we leave a box of frozen or pre-cooked rice out on the kitchen table with her chopsticks; instant soup packs or homemade soup in a pan to be reheated, and soy sauce fish/seaweed/pickles on the table or in the fridge - with a big sign "Help yourself to anything in the fridge".
Okaasan recently seems to manage rice, soup and a boiled egg..maybe some soy sauce fish bits. Often the rice and the egg is all cooked up together in the same pan. She doesn't use the microwave.

If we mention cooking she has the excuse that her cooking books are left in the house in Saitama - so I don't remember how to cook - which is a whopper of a white lie because she was a Super Housewife for years and I am sure didn't need a cook book for general family cooking.

So sad really, something she was good at, something I guess she enjoyed doing - and now unable to do any more than reheating and cooking a boiled egg or a piece of fish.

Ho hum....back to work today. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Return of the spirits.

This weekend is Obon in Japan: an important festival for all Japanese, when the ancestors return to the living for a typically short Japanese holiday of a few days (then they have to get back to work, doing whatever it is spirits do in a Japanese eternity).

Families go to visit the graves and temple memorial halls with offerings of flowers, snacks, candles and insense sticks. It's a time to remember where you came from.

Luckily not in this house......

I guess in Kawagoe in Saitama that Okaasan's brothers and their wives are visiting graves and temples, but with no family connections here in Sapporo Okaasan and Yujiro have to do nothing.

I did mention to Yujiro that maybe we should get Okaasan to telephone one of the brothers and make a family connection at this special time...but he didn't seem very interested...and I doubt they will bother to call her. Or that Useless Elder Brother will call his mother.

Odori Park, Sapporo has BBQ and beer gardens under the TV Tower.

Lucky all of this. We can spend a holiday weekend doing what we like. He and I had a date out on Saturday night, and we've watched videos, and I've seen friends who are visiting the city.

The beer garden has one more day to go...and in Odori Park there are preparations for public Bon Dancing, the final end-of-summer event before we get into autumn.

But, this Obon made me think about how we Westerners deal with death and remembrance, cos I've had a lot of that in the past 2 years.

I did some research for classes and discovered, a little to my surprise, that 75% of funerals in the Uk now are cremations and in 60% of those...the family take away the ashes for private scattering, or interrments in gardens or Memorial Gardens...or football grounds. Even the famous Kew Gardens near London offer a scattering service to the family's of garden lovers!

Having a family grave is just slowly slipping out of fashion in the UK. For cost, space and hassle reasons.

I had 4 parents - real and step. All of them were cremated and scattered in private gardens near their homes. But houses that are sold on and don't remain in the family for years to come.

Step-aunt and I glumly about to scatter my step-mum's ashes last autumn.

And then I tried to recall where and how my grandparents were....Dad's parents died when I was a child and teenager. Mum's mum died when I was in my 20s, her Dad died about 2 months before her. 
And where are they?
I don't actually know! All cremated and scattered I think, in crematorium gardens.
Are there plaques or stones in a wall or garden of remembrance?
I don't actually know. 
I have no memory at all of either Mum or Dad going to Visit a Grave and Lay Flowers in Memory.

Is my family strange in this? I don't think so. Not in the Uk really. In the US/Canada/Australia there is more space for graves maybe, so those scenes you see in Hollywood movies of families visiting a big grassy area and a headstone are still happening...but I don't think so in the UK. Not so much anymore.

We cremate, scatter...and then remember only in our hearts.

When Okaasan dies....I am guessing Yujiro and his brother will be obliged to return her ashes to a temple in Kawagoe in Saitama (because the brothers may still be alive)...and then they will have to pay the temple to say prayers for a few years.

Us? He's already told me that he'd like his ashes scattered in the Klein Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland, so he can look at the Matterhorn for eternity..and I'd like to be scattered in any garden I am tending at the time when I  die...or failing that...a river near my Dad's old house...or a mountain.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Slip, sliding away memories...

What did you do last weekend?
Do you remember?

Okaasan isn't sure. That's dementia.

I had a hair cut the other day and mentioned that to Okaasan.
"Where did you go?" she asked.
"Oh, my usual hair salon, opposite the supermarket".
"Opposite the supermarket? A hairsalon?"
"Yes, you went there a year ago, but it wasn't so good for you, so you changed salons".
"Did I? Where do I go? I go to that place...that place...????"
"Yes, you went to the nice, big salon near the Hotel Okura downtown don't you, you went there last week, didn't you..."
"Last week....the hair salon....yes....".........??????????

But it was obvious she didn't remember...something about a hair salon maybe, where...not sure...when...not sure....

Yujiro took Okaasan for a quick easy dinner at the Korean restaurant near the subway station.
They ordered bibimba.
"Oh bibimba! I like this! I haven't had this in ages!".

Errr...right. A week ago that night Korean restaurant and bibimba for your birthday.....6 days ago...and already that memory has gone.....

*** My memory is ok: this time last year I went along to the hospital and discovered the Yubari Melon that my ovary had become. 1 year ago all of that.....now I am just fat because I am eating too much....

Friday, 12 August 2011

All aboard please..please...please...oh F#### it!

More train passengers in Hokkaido will soon be getting my dulcet tones....

I did another in my occasional side-gig of narration jobs. I get these sometimes because my step-dad bullied me into speaking proper, and there aren't so many nice English gels in Sapporo with plummy Home Counties voices.

So at 9.30 am I was at the JR Hokkaido head office at Soen Station (in a Harry Potter kind-of-a-way you go beyond the work-a-day ticket area, through the glass doors and into the plushness that is corporate Japan).

And once there I checked over the script from the translation company one more time. Eight or nine pages, shouldn't be too hard. Short in-train announcements for services between Sapporo and Kushiro and Obihiro. Lists of station stops, refrain from smoking, use your mobiles near an old man with a pacemaker...that kind of thing.
Easy. I thought. 1 hour recording. Then checking. 90 minutes. Tops.

How wrong can you be....

So I'm in the JR Hokkaido recording studio, surrounded by old posters, cassette tapes, left-over primping stuff from the days when it was used by JR presenter women doing the train cancellation news on local TV.
All going well - the usual slips that can be easily redone in seconds...inserted "the" in front of New Chitose Airport, made some of my "Thankyou"s too chirpy and friendly. All ok.

Then the JR guy and the translation company guy realise the lists of station names (We will be making brief stops at.....etc etc etc) had different intonations. And they wanted ALL of them to be the same. All of them to end UP. Not "Tomamu". But "TomaMU!"...like some overly cheerful Canadian farm girl.
So we had to do all the introduction announcements again. And again. And....oh FUCK.
I can say that. It's my blog.
It was a long haul. Thanks to the guys and the engineer lady.....aghh..it was hard. I've been in Japan too long and know the correct pronunciation to do this easily. I can't be a gaijin anymore.

Anyway. Two hours later all done. Hopefully. I dream they will find another slipped word ending and call me back in to be an extra peppy gaijin and make every place name sound like a Canadian question.
Used to have a friend who did that: everything she said ended on a higher note. She was an excellent kids teacher cos it all sounded like a kids Tv presenter.The kids were mesmerized.


Anyway. Came back to the classroom in sweltering Sapporo...another day of 31 Celsius was actually becoming a humongous 33 point something...awful.
Did three classes back at the classroom, and then went to the gym - because they have air conditioning...and then home.

My turn to do dinner. I'd looked up a good recipe for corn fritters as somebody gave me 3 fresh corns. But with Okaasan's teeth we didn't think she could manage a corn on the cob. So I de-cobbed the corn and made fritters. Got another huge yellow tomato from the garden for salad...got the soup and rice ready....called everyone together.

"No, I'm not eating"...Okaasan spake. Didn't even look away from the TV in her room as she said it either. I'd been right there in the kitchen behind her for the past 40 minutes cooking. The kitchen is 2 meters the other side of big glass doors. She could have told me...could have, should have...never does. It is so frustrating to literally sweat over something special for her - I'd actually prefer the corn on the cob with butter - and then she doesn't want to eat because she ate something in the convenience store earlier.

So Yujiro and I had dinner a deux. And I had to make all the fritters because I'd already made the batter...


Or should that be GrrrrrrrrrrRRR!??

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Avoiding the elephant.

Does Okaasan KNOW she has dementia?
Does she think about it herself?

Being a typical Japanese family here we don't talk about the elephant in the room - the dementia itself. Of course Okaasan makes comments about: "ahh, must be going senile!" when she is confused or forgetful, but most people do that.

Right is a cutting from the Hokkaido Newspaper of August 4, the Velo Taxi NPO's workshop about dementia etc and a nice pic of Yujiro driving an 85 year old lady and her carer around Sapporo.
One of my students gave it to me yesterday.
 We don't have the newspaper at home, so we'd heard about it - but not seen it.

I made a slightly bigger copy of it, came home and gave it to Okaasan.

Is this bad of me?

I really, really don't think so. You can't avoid elephants sitting on the sofa surrounded by underpants.

It's entirely natural to come home with a pic of him in the local newspaper and show it to his mum. She always enjoys stories about his work. And any mum is pleased to see their kid in the newspaper (well, not for murder I guess...).

So. Entirely natural.

But I did wonder. What did she make of it? The topic: dementia and how talking about long ago memories and visiting old places may stave off the inevitable etc.
I exclaimed a bit about the picture with her - how my student recognised him etc, what a big grin he has as always etc...but didn't say anything about the dementia topic. 

Should I have said something?

Okaasan took the cutting into her room and I saw her looking at it several times in the evening.
We had family dinner and the newspaper cutting picture didn't come up in chat...and so..

The elephant settles back on the sofa and puts his feet back up.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

81 years old.

Okaasan was 81 years old yesterday.
Long, long ago in a city called Kawagoe north of Tokyo little Kazuko Okamoto was born to a haulier and his wife in 1930....

This weekend Kazuko got champange and sandles and homecooked dinner with her son and that foreign bint.
Then yesterday she got a haircut in a classy salon with teams of fawning hairstylists and dinner in a Korean restaurant.

Life can't be ALL bad :-))

And Son and that Foreign Bint managed to escape during the three hours Okaasan was being fawned upon by hairstylers....and we sat in the beer garden in the dusk and enjoyed a beer...or two....

All went well....Okaasan appeared to enjoy the hairsalon - although right up to when arrived at it - she wasn't sure WHERE we were going and kept asking is: "where are we going this afternoon? A hairsalon? Oh, where?".

But there we are 81 years of life in a country that has changed beyond little Kazuko Okamoto's wildest imaginings...



it's bloody HOT here. 30 degrees is too hot.

Friday, 5 August 2011


I GOT tickets.

My home city London.

Olympics 2012.

TWO days!!!!

July 29 Gymnastics.
August 6 Athletics.

I'm gonna go to the Olympics.
I'm gonna go to the Olympics.
I'm gonna go to the Olympics!!

* Oh, and it was Okaasan's birthday.
We have her some pink roses and some sandles. And dinner cooked by Loving Son. And pink sparkling wine. And sang Happy Birthday.

and I'm gonna go to the Olympics!!!!! 2012 London I will be there.

My dad would love to be there with me...he would...but Dad I am going!!!!!!!!

Today's the day...

...I won't get tickets for the 2012 London Olympics.

After 6 pm today I can log into the Pia Ticket website and discover I got:

a) Nothing at all and I can spend all my money next summer drinking and eating with friends in the UK, who I haven't seen for years.
b) FOURTEEN bloody days of tickets for sports I've never heard of. And my credit card will explode. And I'll have no money to even get to England to see the event.

Which option will it be. My bet is on a).

Oh....and August 5th?

It's Okaasan's birthday...she is 81 years old today.

Does she know? Not sure yet. She is busy sitting watching the same weather reports on the TV Weather Data channel at the moment. Since all of Japan switched over to Digital TV recently Okaasan's TV has a few more channels...including (dangerously) TV shopping for vacumn cleaners and pearl necklaces...and the non-stop Weather Data channel. 
I am wondering how long Okaasan can sit watching the Weather Channel before she realizes she is seeing the same thing over and over and over again.

Birthday Plans: champagne with dinner tonight. Tomorrow: trip to the very nice hairsalon in town reccommended by one of my stylish, mature lady students....so it MUST be good. After a few false starts with local hair salons that Okaasan chose herself I am hoping that THIS one will be more suitable for her.

And finally...yesterday was the annual Let's Beer Garden with one of my community center classes. Last class before the summer break and we always finish early and head down to Odori Park here in the center of Sapporo for a beer and snacks lunch together.
Yesterday I secretly arranged for 3 velotaxies to be waiting for us outside the community center and they whisked us away to the beer garden....funny...one of the drivers looked vaguely familiar...I must have met him somewhere before...

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Dementia Lessons

Yujiro's having lessons in dementia!!!
As part of his job as a velo taxi driver in Sapporo he is attending lectures/workshops about how to welcome pasangers who suffer from dementia, by taking them to old parts of town and old buildings they may remember etc
It's a connection between a dementia carers' group and the velo taxi NPO.
Here are pictures of the workshop.

Of course I've read a million books on the subject and I read anything I can find on the Internet, and I talk to many friends and students about their family members. Yujiro doesn't really - he read a book I gave him 2 years ago after the domestic violence incident, he talked with me to that doctor for two hours.

But now he is having lectures about the importance of teenage/childhood memories. The importance of place and happy memories.


Yesterday he and the other drivers did roleplaying about being a driver and taking a passenger with dementia, today a dementia sufferer is coming for a trip in the taxi.

Excellent. It should make him a bit more aware of Okaasan and her worldview.

Last night she was sleeping when I came home, and very dozy when we called her to dinner.
She finally made it into the kitchen just as we'd finished eating, which meant that we had to stay a bit longer in the kitchen to give her some chat instead of bolting back to our more interesting lives of email/TV/cats upstairs.
But he sat and chatted to her for 20 minutes about memories.
Good, good, good....