Sunday, 31 January 2010

24 hours away from cat meeting?

Count-down to a cat? Maybe!
Tomorrow afternoon I'll go along to a Seicomart convenience store in the suburbs of Sapporo and meet a woman called Satomi and hope she introduces me to the next BIG Feline Love of My Life.

I'm feeling excited...tomorrow can't come quick enough...although I won't come home with a cat tomorrow because Tuesday is a busy day for me and I have to get that out of the way before a quieter Wednesday when I can be home almost all day with CAT!

But cat may be kitten in we have made some kitten-proofing plans: take the spider plants out of the living room and Yujiro made a great hanging screen for the top of the stairs so we can try and keep Cat and Okaasan apart....he really is a pretty good handy-man and now we have the screen up to try and disguise the tempting top of the wall.

We hope the kitten won't think about climbing up onto the wall - and then
fall into the stairwell. But kittens....they can get anywhere they have a mind to really....I haven't had a kitten for years - had a series of older cats - so I think a steep learning curve is around the  corner as it climbs and chews its way into our lives...

It was a good weekend. We went skiing with a friend today - well, they skied and I hung out in the ski center with a book.
Then home to cook dinner - tacos for us and a good box of sushi for Okaasan. She always says she ate tacos in Mexico years ago...but equally she says she doesn't like mince we thought it was a good idea to give her sushi.

The bowl of damp laundry got smaller over the weekend without me having to intervene, and  tonight as I was making dinner I managed to remind her to get a fresh lot of half-done laundry out of the sink, then into the washing machine, then out of the washing machine and onto the hangers by the fire.

Okaasan seems ok at the moment. But...maybe this is just my imagination - I feel she isn't so friendly to me in the past few days. She is civil enough, but somehow her speaking to me seems a bit automatic and without any real feeling and I don't feel any friendliness in her eyes. Maybe it's just me...but I hope this doesn't show some building bad feeling towards me.
I thought about asking her to give up some of her old newspapers for the reccyling box. But I think I'll leave it. I don't want to provoke a Flare Up.

One good thing in her life - she's discovered a soba noodle shop near the subway station that she likes. She asked Yujiro to stop the lunchbox delivery because she wants to go there for lunch every day. It would be better - give her a chance to talk to the restaurant staff etc. Give her an out-routine.

And finally? LOOK what we discovered in a supermarket this afternoon in Sapporo! One of the famous local chocolate companies is now selling Chocolat Beer. It has a strong whiff of chocolate as you open the can...and the blackish beer...very nice....gulp.

Friday, 29 January 2010

日本語でBlog. (J)

Dear, Kind Tokiko has done it again - she translated some of this blog into Japanese.

I've just uploaded her translations.

If you want to read it in Japanese - the blog entries for December 2007 to May 2008 are now mostly ALL in Japanese!

If the titles have (J) in them - it's in Japanese.

Here is a sample from May 15 2009.
THANKYOU Tokiko! (and see you this afternoon?)



  1. 午後6時半ごろユウかワタシのどちらかが(通常は今のところ彼が)調理を始めるために台所に降りていく。
  1. 夕食は通常は“何か”+ご飯+味噌(発酵大豆)スープ+漬け物/サラダ。ワタシは味噌スープをパスして、ときどきご飯もパスするの。
  2. 料理をしていない方がテーブルをセットする。
  1. お義母さんにあと5分の警告をする。お義母さんがお手洗いに行ったりできるように。
  2. 7時から7時15分に席に着く。お義母さんは両手を合わせて“いただきます”と言う。これは、何かを食べ始めるあいさつというような日本人みんなが言うもの。ワタシたちもこれを唱和する感じ。
  3. お義母さんは水を、ワタシたちはビールを飲む。
  4. 無言で食べるか、(これもまたとても日本的で、ユウとワタシが一緒に暮らし始めたとき、彼が怒ったかなんかししたんじゃないかって、びくびくさせられたわ)食べ物やお天気と言ったすごく一般的なことを話すの。沈黙が多いわ。実際の会話は食事が済んでからようやく始まるの。ユウはときどき興に乗じて話し、(食べ物や出来事に関するうっとうしいうんちくなんかだけど)お義母さんは座って返答するの・・・ワタシは缶ビールのタブをもてあそんで、その場にいる証拠に口を挟もうとしてみるの。
  5. お義母さんはときどきスープのおかわりをする。

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Missing out.

Ho ho ho...Okaasan missed out last night on an awesome dinner!
Fresh, juicy, huge - crab legs! Just look how big they are!

I did a video narration job (how land near Cape Erimo was devastated by one generation of government policy and re-greened by the next) and as it was a quasi-government job the pay for the work was outrageous (government gravy train still chugging along it seems) and I went straight from the recording studio to the fish market and bought GI-NORMOUS, fresh crab legs.

Yujiro finished tax/computer work. We came home together. Okaasan came home shortly after.
I started cooking up a feast of crab legs, crab soup, potato and cabbage, rice....

and then Okaasan popped her head out of her room and said:"Ahh, no dinner for me. I walked to the subway station and had a coffee, and as it was cold I had something to eat as well!"

What?? It's crab! Your favorite! My favorite! Tonight is a special dinner because I got paid well for a job! No dinner?????!!!!

But no dinner. She'd just eaten something out....

So. Great actually. Yujiro and I got to sit across the table from eachother and munch our way through a pile of crab legs and chat with eachother. Okaasan sat in her room loooking at TV. She wandered thru later and looked at the mound of shells and made herself a cup of tea.
I saved two of the legs - Yujiro can cook them somehow for her tonight's dinner while I'm out with a friend for her birthday meal.

But ho ho ho....Okaasan missed out on a delicious family feast. Just shows you - you shouldn't waste money eating stuff out because you just don't know what wonders may be prepared for you at home by a dear, dear Oyomesan!

* I know I am not meant to enter THE ROOM and steal stuff. But the piles of old newspapers and supermarket fliers are getting hill-like...and the clothes on the sofa have strata of years...and there is some damp underwear still in a bowl waiting to be hung up to's been there since Monday....I moved it from the bathroom into Okaasan's room...and then from the doorway next to the clothes hanger. But she isn't noticing it yet.
Should I directly suggest to her that she hang the clothes up? Should I just leave it and let the mold grow?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Neko thoughts...

Neko...neko...neko....that's basically all I have on my mind at the moment. With occasional brain power on work, man and Okaasan.

Man wasn't so keen on TWO I sadly wrote to the animal charity in Tokyo and said I didn't think we could offer Jack and Kaede a home. I feel a bit guilty. But I hope there will be someone in a big city like Tokyo who can help them.

I called into another vets and left my name and number - and has a wonderful paws-on-chest encounter with one of the many cats that lives there...I think it's a Cat Home with a vets table attached. Not so hygienic.

And then...I stopped off at a Seicomart on Monday. Bought some water and stood by the cash machine gulping it down. Lowered my head and there it was: a poster with pictures of a handsome black and white NEKO!!!
Two months old, a boy, rolling around on a mat with a laundry basket in the background.

I just called the number. I'm going to go and meet him on Monday. Actually I think he may have a brother or sister too.....two....


Monday, 25 January 2010

Fallen in love....

No....I didn't! Not yet anyway....
But last night reading The Japan Times, while waiting for the finale of So You Think You Can Dance? to start....I found these two kittens in a looking-for-adoption advert by Tokyo ARK, a Toyko-based animal charity.
Ooooowwww! Look at them! They are Jack and Kaede who were rescued by ARK from the streets.....and they have befriended eachother.
Sapporo is a long way from Tokyo - it would actually be pretty ridiculous to spend all the money to bring 2 cats up here when there are of course cats in Sapporo needing homes.
But. I just sent an email to ARK.
Last week too I went back to our old vets and told the girls on the reception desk to let me know if anyone has kittens or an older cat looking for rehoming. They often have posters on the reception wall. At the moment only floppy eared rabbits, which while undoubtedly cute - are not cats.
Just being back at the vets made me a bit emotional. I came away and had a little cry in the car.
Jack and Kaede...would you like to sit in a garden in Sapporo and sniff the breeze?

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Family Duty Day

Japanese have a saying: "Doing Family Duty" - so today that's what we did.

We took Okaasan out for lunch and and exhibition...and tried to bond as a family group.

Actually we took her to a photo exhibition WE wanted to see, and along the way we had a sushi lunch and walked round a Farmers' Market in a shopping center...and came home by 2.30 pm - so she was happy and we had time to do other stuff too.

This was the photo exhibition - old pix of Sapporo in the 1920-1970s period. All from the city records. Last year Yujiro had a part time job taking 100 photos in this area to add to the city records - so it was interesting to see what they have already got.

I was surprised how muddy and rural Sapporo looked right up until the 1970s when the Winter Olympics came and changed everything. And we enjoyed looking at areas we know - like the park near where we lived and the station area.
Okaasan enjoyed it, I think. She shuffled round looking at photos. She often talks about her mother's house as being "just near the first river bridge on the road between Sapporo and Otaru" and we are never quite sure where this there were lots of pictures of bridges and roads to look at and comment on.

And the Farmers' Market in the shopping mall! Okaasan was in her element here. The old Osaka housewife came to the fore and she inspected each and every stall, challenged the sellers pretty agressively about what they had on offer, took EVERY chance to try the free samples and asked pertinent questions.
We managed to drag her away with only some organic garlic. And later I made sure to send her and Yujiro to the front door of the shopping mall so I could bring the car round to the front - so Okaasan didn't get a second chance to get back at the market.

Came home to relax and get ready for next week. Okaasan didn't want dinner - so we could enjoy conversation a deux (football and reality shows)....which is always good for couple life.

Dare I say it? A good Family Duty Day.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Life as we know it.

Haven't blogged.
Life just going from day to day.
Which after recent stuff is a wonderful thing.

Okaasan is behaving herself. Sitting quietly watching hours and hours of TV, venturing out for shopping trips (MORE underwear!!!!). Coming home on time. Being chatty at meal times. It's all we want of her. The lunch boxes are getting delivered and eaten. She managed to heat up and eat some curry - only burned the pan a little.

Yujiro starts work today for the city council, helping people file their tax returns on computer. Off he went this morning in a suit....WHAOOOOORRRRR.....

I've been getting into the work groove. And diet  success. Step-mum ok. I enjoyed a woodchip bath thingy. And a haircut. And hosting a Canadian couple as Couch Surfers....and thinking about how to find a cat....

Life as We Know It.
Thankgoodness for boring normality.

Monday, 18 January 2010

The A-mazing son!

Look what I've just found on the kitchen table. It's a letter from Yujiro to Okaasan - telling her: We are both out working today and what food to eat for lunch and what food to eat for dinner. How to cook it. How long to cook it, etc etc etc. Oh - and by the way - today is your hula class.
He really is the good son! A-mazing.

Getting it all under control.

Did it all again.
A day of Oyomesan duty and no crisis.

Fed Okaasan, cleared snow, met a friend for swimming and lunch and more snow clearing.
Then after friend had gone - fed Okaasan. Fed Yujiro when he finally got home.
Thought about next week's food.

Okaasan all A-ok. Chatted to her about stuff. Got her on a endless round of how Kawagoe wasn't bombed during the war because the Americans knew it had lots of old buildings. If the war had gone on another 3 days Kawagoe was next etc etc. It's one of her favorite chats.
Dinner was ok: small fried fish, rice, soup, salad and some seaweed mix thing a student made for me. I teach many older students - in their 60s and 70s, and some of the ladies have taken pity on me and often give me seaweedy mixtures, pickled veggies and other very Japanese homecooked foods. Okaasan loves it.

Yujiro came home for a short night to get clothes and ski waxes. Now he's gone away again and will stay away tonight for work. He's a happy bunny.

I'm happy for him...but...I have now lost the car for 2 days. So I have to get round all my culture school, private students in the suburbs, back to my classroom and finally back home at 9 pm tonight - all by public transport, student cars and on foot.
It's going to be a long day.

I'll leave rice and soup and pickles for Okaasan's light lunch pre-hula dancing.
And I'll leave her curry and rice for tonight.
Hope she survives. I'm gone 9 am to 9 pm.

*  AND! Some of the weight has come down! YES! From 64.5 at New Year to 62.5.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Dinner a deux.....

Saturday night....and I spent a quiet dinner...with....Okaasan!
And it all went well.
Maybe I am more relaxed after the holidays and time in England - but when Yujiro called at 5 pm to say he wouldn't be getting back tonight because the roads were awful - he'd be staying at the ski school lodge instead.
It didn't throw me into panic me at all.

Coldest day of the year - something like Minus 5 all day, with added wind chill - and of course Okaasan had gone off for a walk.
After I got back from work I cleared the front step of snow and ice, finished off class prepping for Monday...welcome Okaasan home at 6.30 pm and at 7 pm sat her down with me in the kitchen for oyster fry, soup, rice, salad and

It all went ok actually...somehow I steered her gently round a few rounds of:

*  oysters she'd eaten in the past
*  oysters in England at expensive
*  fish she ate when she was a child
*  Kawagoe didn't have fresh fish, her father bought it back from business trips
*  Hula dancing and sports centers and showers
*  hula dancing in the Sapporo Snow Festival
*  my old student who sang with the Yubari old school choir at the snow festival
* Yubari and other mining towns that died slowly
* Otaru and Isihara Yujiro
*  how she named her youngest son Yujiro
* how her husband wanted to call the baby Makoto
* she once went to a cooking school near Ishihara's Tokyo house....

They are all stories I've heard so many times before...and tonight I heard most of them 3-6 times again...but...

You know what? I think I am actually BETTER at getting Okaasan to chat happily about stuff than Yujiro! I did all of this in my pretty ropey Japanese (which is even ropier after a week in England), but all those years of being an English teacher mean I can guide someone's conversation smoothly...and I think I DID PRETTY WELL TONIGHT!
Yujiro - being a male - talks about stuff that he wants to.....and Okaasan often only gives responses.
With me she can talk and talk, cos I just sit there steering a bit and trying to catch the meaning of it all.

At 8 pm I started clearing a few things from the table and then told her I had to make a phone call to the family in England...and bolted upstairs to have my evening at home (Trainspotting movie....Euan McGregor was SO SO thin!)....

Maybe 2010 will finally be the time I really get on top of this Oyomesan job.

Who did you have dinner with?

Threw a question zinger at poor Okaasan - completely without meaning to.

I came home around 7.30 pm to find her in the kitchen washing dishes I dumped my bags down and took off my coat I glanced around the kitchen and asked: "Did you eat dinner with Yujiro?"


Poor Okaasan! It threw her. That direct question about something in the past 20 minutes.

She looked down at the bowls and spoons - trying to see if the answer was there.

"Ah...Yujiro. Dinner? Maybe. Yes? I don't remember!"

I felt bad and tried to give her the escape by saying they'd eaten spaghetti together hadn't they etc...and he came into the kitchen soon after and confirmed that - but it was awkward...poor Okaasan. She really COULDN'T remember.
She'd sat there at the table probably 20 minutes before, but she had no memory of who was sitting there with her.
All the advice about dementia is to try and avoid direct questions - and here I was throwing one at her.
Must try harder next time.

Funnily enough, she remembered a few minutes later she'd eaten spaghetti...but not with whom!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Escape from lunches.

Don't have to make and chat over lunch for Okaasan on my day off!
Escaped that duty.

While I was away and Yujiro was ski teaching, he ordered a lunch box company to deliver a lunch to Okaasan - it costs Y600 and arrives about 12 o'clock. He pays for it via bank transfer every month. All she has to do is open the door and the delivery staff stamp a paper.
And I can escape the lunch cooking, serving and chat that was giving me stress at the start of the holidays. Of course if I am here and in the kitchen I'll chat to her - but I don't have to plan my day off around being here in the kitchen by 10.45 am to make and dish up lunch.

A BIG improvement on life.
I am sure Okaasan would qualify for the city meals-on-wheels service but Yujiro said he couldn't find out about that. Y600 isn't much anyway.

So. Life starts again.
Trying to get a diet regime jacked up. I walked to the gym yesterday and swam for 20 minutes..and walked home again. The leg was tired after that. I gotta be careful about overdoing it.
But I'm 64 kg now - usually 57 something's got to happen, 7 kg extra is dangerous because hard to shift.
I've told friends that I'll get 5kg off by Golden Week.....

Home life is back on track.
Yujiro is away almost every day ski teaching. He gets home late afternoon or evening.
I cooked dinner yesterday. Attempted chawamushi - a sort of pot of savory custard with bits of meat, fish and veggies in it - added too much soy sauce, so it came out brown and not yellow. But they said the taste was good. I think actually for Okaasan, if I just throw in lots of soy sauce she thinks the taste is fine!

Had a little ripple of anger just as dinner was finishing though: Okaasan made a comment to Yujiro (while I'm there in the kitchen) about how I'd put one dirty plate on top of another....this is their family is a Terrible Deed because it means you have to wash the bottom of the plate on top...thereby wasting valuable time.
Get a Life!
I think I did it knowingly - just to provoke.
It's such a petty thing. But Yujiro's always gone on at me about it.
I hate him telling me this kind of petty stuff. And now I've got Okaasan on my case too.
It makes me angry that a) she comments on this and b) she comments on this in front of me. How rude! And of course she doesn't say it TO me. She says it to him, while I am standing about 1 meter away.
This is just the older-Japanese person to younger family-member rudeness. Me and my life have no value.

When I've cooked and served dinner, and she's just sat in front of the TV all day doing nothing it's a bit rich to comment on how I clear the table.
I didn't say that of course. I just gaily commented: "well, it's not wrong, it's just different!" and left it at that.

There is some gene in Japanese people, particularly older people: the Handing Out Unwanted Advice Gene.
Why oh why do they do it?

Monday, 11 January 2010

Back from SNOWY England - welcome 2010!

Happy New Year all blog readers far and wide (and at this time of year I am guessing many of us are "wide" for sure, I certainly am).

Got back from the UK last night after almost 24 hours of to Heathrow, airport waiting, flight to Narita, waiting, flight to Chitose, bus, taxi......

Step-mum Jane is very good. She is eating normally and walking with a frame around the house and very carefully from the car to the supermarket or bank. Living with a great live-in Carer (Lola is from Nigeria, so snowed-in was a new experience for her) who helps with washing, toilet, housework...which will probably continue for another month...and then maybe be downgraded to a Carer coming in once or twice a day.

Jane's walking is okay.....ish....not great...and in fact she fell in the living room while I was there - because she looked slightly back at me while she was talking...and toppled slowly backwards to the carpet. Not hurt this time - but I'm sure it will happen again...and again.

And England!!!! Hit by freak weather from Russia - the coldest for 30 years! Minus temperatures every day - just above freezing at lunchtime.....and 6-8 cm of snow in the Cotswolds...more in the north and east. Chaos all round with schools, trains, planes and roads...but also very beautiful around the house in the countryside.

Luckily we went out for lunch on the Sunday, I saw friends in Bristol on Monday - and after that I couldn't get the hirecar out of the 1 km track between the public road and the house! Neighbors with 4 wheel-drives had to come and take me to see the solicitor and accountant for Dad's will and taxes.

But. It was so great to see Jane back in the house and doing normal things like eating and watching TV. I realize now I never thought she would get back to the house.

When I locked up the house in September...I imagined that might be it until Jane's sister and I came one day with a removal company to start packing up all the furniture for distribution round the family and selling.

So. Normal for now. After all of the 2009 events that is wonderful.
I feel sure something is going to happen again with Jane - soon I expect - because her walking isn't steady and she gets infections easily. But for now all is great and I can come back to MY life and start 2010.

All well with Okaasan and Yujiro. He has got a lot of ski work and computer/tax work for Sapporo city starting later this month, and Okaasan seems well. While I was away he used a lunch delivery service for her and she is getting out to hula dancing and the shops.

Work starts tomorrow. Diet ought to start tomorrow too.....and...Search for a Cat (or two!).

Here are some pretty UK snowy pictures. None of Jane because she shied away from the camera.

Fox visitor seen from the living room window...and then on the garden wall!