Fiddler on the Roof

Last weekend on a visit to Nagahama Dam to check on bird activity, I heard shrieks of excitement from the adjacent park.

Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron

To my surprise the glee came from a bunch of elementary school kids playing rugby. They were having the best time. What’s more they were really good. It was a kind of touch rugby whereby  a player was deemed tackled if the tag thing, attached with velcro to the shorts, was untimely ripped off. The teams were mixed with boys and girls and other things. The emphasis was on moving the ball around quickly with no handling errors. Their passing and support play was excellent.

Great try

Great try

The teacher told me that there are 65 teams from elementary schools on Okinawa. I find this hard to believe but the kids were obviously enjoying themselves.

Hot rain's a gonna fall

Hot rain’s a gonna fall

The morning after.

7:30 the next morning

7:30 the next morning

I like it here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Love This Stuff

I cook a lot of tempura, which means hot oil that becomes dirty and grunge. As you all know the problem of deep fat frying, whether for chips or squid tempura is what to do with the dirty oil. I mean you cannot chuck it down the sink as it congeals and blocks your evacuation. You can sneak off into the woods in the dark of night and pour it over the roots of orchids but that does not seem very nice. The Japanese have of course, due to their harmonic with Nature, got the solution.

Thanks Naoko

Thanks Naoko

This stuff is fantastic. When oil gets objectionable you just heat it up some and sprinkle on the fairy dust that comes in the packet in the previous illustration. As the oil cools , it congeals.

Magic. Wendy got it all over her.

Magic. Wendy got it all over her.

You can then hoick it out in one piece and dump it in the trash.

I don't like sponge cake.

I don’t like sponge cake.

Do they have this stuff in other countries?

Do they have this stuff in other countries?

Maybe I can make a million dollars by marketing this stuff in other countries. I could call it, “Peter Pan”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Avec Le Temps

‘Avec le temps’ by Leo Ferre

Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
On oublie le visage et l’on oublie la voix
Le coeur, quand ça bat plus, c’est pas la peine d’aller
Chercher plus loin, faut laisser faire et c’est très bien

Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
L’autre qu’on adorait, qu’on cherchait sous la pluie
L’autre qu’on devinait au détour d’un regard
Entre les mots, entre les lignes et sous le fard
D’un serment maquillé qui s’en va faire sa nuit
Avec le temps tout s’évanouit

Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
Même les plus chouettes souvenirs, ça, t’as une de ces gueules
A la gallerie j’farfouille dans les rayons d’la mort
Le samedi soir quand la tendresse s’en va toute seule

Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
L’autre à qui l’on croyait pour un rhume, pour un rien
L’autre à qui l’on donnait du vent et des bijoux
Pour qui l’on eût vendu son âme pour quelques sous
Devant quoi l’on s’traînait comme traînent les chiens
Avec le temps, va, tout va bien

Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
On oublie les passions et l’on oublie les voix
Qui vous disaient tout bas les mots des pauvres gens
Ne rentre pas trop tard, surtout ne prends pas froid
Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
Et l’on se sent blanchi comme un cheval fourbu
Et l’on se sent glacé dans un lit de hasard
Et l’on se sent tout seul peut-être mais peinard
Et l’on se sent floué par les années perdues, alors vraiment
Avec le temps on n’aime plus.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiXcUTTLud4

 

So I have a sore knee which makes me slow and clumsy.

Knees up Mother Brown

Knees up Mother Brown

I finally installed AC in my living room and this has given me a dreadful cold. Scots do not thrive in comfort.

The California Tax Authority has helped itself to $7,000 out of my bank account for income tax in 2010.

I have no idea why.

Forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Hours on phones waiting for someone qualified to answer my questions, demands for documentation that has long since disappeared, time differences making investigation tedious, excuses from accountants, snivelling from lawyers, whining from bankers, coughing from people that have a cough.

Basically I want my Mummy.

Yet there has been such beauty of late that it is undignified to girn.

We come in peace

We come in peace

A couple of nights ago.

A couple of nights ago.

 

Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity

Write your own caption.

Write your own caption.

Wordsworth was very big on the therapeutic powers of exposure to nature.

Check out this bleat from Tintern Abbey. Er the them he refers to are periods spent communing with Nature.

But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
      Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
      In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
      Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
      And passing even into my purer mind,
      With tranquil restoration:--feelings too                        30
      Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
      As have no slight or trivial influence
      On that best portion of a good man's life,
      His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
      Of kindness and of love.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Slow

I go to the knee toubib and he sternly tells me to go slow. He says my knee is unnecessarily swollen and inflamed. He say ” Put your knee above your heart-I am not sure if he is speaking poetically or medically – and walk as little as possible.”

So, the weekend has been  static. Interestingly, once the guilt of doing nothing has been removed by a doctor, I find inactivity very pleasant.

Final of the Super 14. Incredible rugby.

Final of the Super 14. Incredible rugby. The sun is going down behind me.

I binge-watch. “73% of people define binge-watching as “watching between 2-6 episodes of the same TV show in one sitting.” Ray Donovan is really tough. I wish I was more like him.

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"

“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”

There has been a minor typhoon and the sea is a little agitated.

Leaving Port Askaig

Leaving Port Askaig

I take photos of insects that hang out around the house.

Burnt Norton

Burnt Norton

East Coker

East Coker 

The Dry Salvages

The Dry Salvages

Little Gidding

Little Gidding

I learn The Famous Ballymote. Second tune:

I have to say that my knee feels much better.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Rehabilitation

Off to Tokyo to change Japanese scientific media. Also to exercise my wounded knee.

All change

All change

We eat lunch.

Ramen!

Ramen!

We drink fluids.

Sake!

Sake!

I go for a stumble around the Imperial Palace. Mistake really as it is very, very hot and the staples in my knee melt, spilling sinew and cartilage all over the baking tarmac.

Reconstructed old stuff

Reconstructed old stuff

However the real action is in Okinawa where another mega typhoon approacheth. Dileas is in the water. I am legless in Tokyo for 3 days. Oh dear.

However a gallant band go out early in the morning and pull her up into Dead Man’s Gulch where she and little blue boat will be perfectly safe. The gallant band has my eternal gratitude.

Why did the turtle blush? Because she saw Queen Mary's bottom.

Why did the turtle blush?
Because she saw Queen Mary’s bottom.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

I’m Looking Through You

So I go for surgery on my busted meniscus. I check into Urasoe University Hospital on Thursday afternoon and I am installed in a room. ” Private room, very expensive.”

How much?”

“7,000 yen.” – $70 Hmmm think I will give it a go.

The overwhelming atmosphere during medical treatment in Okinawa is  – let’s have fun. All the medical staff from surgeons to the guy who brings the meals are grinning, mischievous and want everyone to have a good time.

They shave my leg.

Lot's of tomfoolery

Lots of tomfoolery

Evening meal

Evening meal

There is a typhoon outside and I listen to the thunder and smell the lightning. I had no time to take Dileas out of the water but did swim out with a second anchor just prior to going to hospital. I worry, notwithstanding. I read”Voyage to Loo Choo” by Captain Basil Hall R.N., a Scot who came to Okinawa in 1816. You can read it here:http://books.google.co.jp/books?id=AMtjAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA212&lpg=PA212&dq=voyage+loo+choo+hill&source=bl&ots=CA_NLVa39s&sig=5UHxGtrUX8Gji13cH-2cW6r7GbU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=tpncU8XBBMvo8AXVoIKoBA&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=voyage%20loo%20choo%20hill&f=false

The Okinawans have not changed.

Next morning is surgery time.

My surgical outfit

My surgical outfit

The anaesthetics team

The anaesthetics team

They write on the leg that has to be treated - just in case.

They write on the leg that has to be treated – just in case.

I had asked my brother Ian if there were any questions I should ask.   “Ask the surgeon if he has done the operation before and if he has alcohol or drug dependency.”

I do so and the surgeon, Shima sensei, politely explains that he drinks alcohol 3 times a week and does not take drugs. I say, “No, no, British joke.”

He cracks up and runs around the operating theatre explaining to everyone that I had asked if he was an alcoholic but it was a British joke! Everyone hoots and screams. We have to have a 2 minute pause to allow the medical staff to regain their composure.

Are you an alcoholic?

Are you an alcoholic?

The last thing I remember is the Beatles song ” I’m Looking Through You” playing over the sound system.

Golden Slumbers

Golden Slumbers

Asleep at the wheel

Asleep at the wheel

Anyway I wake up to a great welcome from the anaesthetics folk who also give me the lump of meniscus that had been sliced off.

Ohayo Gozaimasu!

Ohayo Gozaimasu!

Reputedly very good as fishing bait.

Reputedly very good as fishing bait.

I go back to my room and sleep through the rest of the day. Communication with nurses is done through phones.

Hai!!

Hai!!

Bleackfast!

bleakfast!

This morning I am taken off for physiotherapy.

Sayaka san!

Sayaka san!

So thanks everyone at the Urasoe Hospital for giving me such a good time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Minna Jima

“Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.”

So, I do not have any quarrels, except maybe with the toubib who told me that there was nothing wrong with my knee as I hobbled around for 6 weeks. Forgiveness and redemption. However I crave adventure.

Look at that!

Look at that!

Who would not want to sail Dileas to Minna Jima? It is a tiny island off the west coast of Okinawa and I have to go there. I head for that huge inlet /bay which is so obvious on Google but as you will hear not so in reality.

It is summer in Okinawa and the best place to be is on a sailing boat. As I head North  the sun blazes, the sea is a very fine blue and score of flying fish erupt in front of my bows, indeed from all over the place. Where are they going ? Do they know? Their gay abandon,  as they launch themselves out of the water and glide with the wind for 20, 30, meters, fills my heart with joy as a soft, but adequate breeze pushes me onward.

If you click on this phot you may be able to distinguish a pyramidical island in the far distance. That is where I am going.

If you click on this photo you may be able to distinguish a pyramidical island in the far distance. That is where I am going.

I sail for 3 hours and make good progress in an unambitious sort of way. I pass interesting craft.

Huge barge carrying stone from the quarries in North. It is hauled by tug and they go real slow.

Huge barge carrying stone from the quarries in North. It is hauled by tug and they go real slow.

But then the wind just stops.

I am reduced to taking photos of myself

I am reduced to taking photos of myself

It sit around but the  current is slowly pushing me backward. I am quite far out at sea and getting nowhere, so I have lunch.

I have brought a box of nigiri, some squid and rice. It is all I will eat for 2 days.

I have brought a box of nigiri, some squid and rice.
It is all I will eat for 2 days.

I determine that if the wind does not come back by 1:30, I will abandon my invasion and turn for home. 1:30 a very stiff breeze blows offshore and we hurtle off,  all a quiver. The waves get up and Dileas is close hauled bounding straight at Minna Jima.

As I approach, I see sands that are clearly the bay I am headed for. I am very confident as I know that once into the bay the wind will be blocked by the landmass and Dileas can calmly choose an anchorage in shallow water.

In fact I hurtle towards a beach and crash over a reef. The wind is strong and Dileas is very sporty. A few yards from the beach,  I head up wind and I try to take down the sails. This a thing that I am not very good at as I am essentially one-legged and hopping agiley around the boat as she is pushed over coral in a vigorous swell is not something  for me just now. I lumber  over the side and finally manage, after several duckings, to get Dileas aft on to the swell and rush her up the beach.  Okinawan beaches are preceded by coral. This can be flat or this can be canyonesque with metre deep holes that open up when it is least expected. Anyway it is razor-sharp, lethal stuff as any contact therewith results in blood.

This photo totally fails represent the drama.

This photo totally fails to represent the drama.

Anxiety and sailing are joined at the hip. Now I am safe on land, how am I ever to get off again? I came in on the high tide so Dileas is stranded on a beach and the sea disappears way back. The only way I am going to get her back into the sea is to wait for the next high tide and be there to drag her back into the water. She is a heavy boat and I will not manage to drag her off the beach unless I am there at the right time. Even then there are unknowns of swell, darkness and of course coral to factor in.

I do not know when the next high tide will be. I take a hobble around the island. There is nothing  here beyond a couple of soba stands waiting for tourists, of which I see none. I love it. There is absolutely no noise. I walk towards the  harbor as lizards, butterflies and a legion of cicadas, grasshoppers announce my progress.

The harbor on Minna Jima. This is where I will land next time. Ie Jima in the background

The harbor on Minna Jima. This is where I will land next time. Ie Jima in the background

My reconnoitre shows me that I totally missed the bay I was headed for whose entrance is very well disguised unless you approach from the East. I hobble back to my bivouac.

Seek adventure.

Seek adventure.

OK to get off this island I have to get Dileas into the sea. The only way to do this is to be there when the tide rises up  and  reaches the boat, then I can use the swell to turn her and push her out into the sea.

High and dry.

High and dry.

So I sit on the beach and wait for high tide.  I do not know what time that will be. They also serve who only sit and wait.  This brings me to a reflection on solitude. Much though I enjoy society, chatter gets in the way of observation. I love to sit and watch and not talk about it. This beach is humming in activity. The restless Black Browed Tern is fishing just offshore. A group of 4 Roseate Turns fly past in a very determined way just a few meters in front of me. I eat.

Same as lunch but with a beer that I bought at a soba stall near the harbor

Same as lunch but with a beer that I bought at a soba stall near the harbor

As soon it gets dark, dozens of big hermit crabs er, walk, crawl, is there a word in English for the movement of a big hermit crab?- from the mangroves to the beach in search of devilry. No phone, no internet, no electronics just time to sit and watch. I like this.

There are hundreds of these. They are about the size of a small apple, a big strawberry, a tangerine or a tomato.

There are hundreds of these. They are about the size of a small apple, a big strawberry, a tangerine or a tomato.

I am exhausted and as soon as it gets dark, around 8:00, I lie down on my yoga mat and fall asleep.  I sleep outside. There seems not reason to go into a tent. It must be 30 degrees.

At 10:30 I jerk awake and hobble down to the boat. The seat is crashing into her stern! I succeed in dragging her round and then pull her out into the East China Sea. Hooray! Dileas is freed.

So, the plan is to anchor her offshore where she can ride through the night.  I drag her out over the coral until the water is at my chin. There I drop the anchor.

A small diversion about stars. It is a dark, dark, night but over my head the sky is ablaze with stars. We rarely see this nowadays due to the light pollution from all our lights. What a tragedy. Standing shoulder-high in the warm East China Sea, looking up to a canopy of dazzling stars beats er, most stuff.

OK, Dileas is moored but coral is a terrible slasher of rope and indeed chain. What if  the anchor rope is caught on coral growth and gently incised until, snap,  she drifts off into the night?

I cannot see her from the beach. I cannot sleep. At 1:00 I swim out with my biking light that flashes very satisfactorily. I lash it to one of the side stays and swim back to shore. Stars and amazing lightning to the West. The lightning worries me. What if a storm charges through during the night and whisks Dileas away? Anxiety and sailing.

I lie on my mat, soaking wet but it is hot and so what as Dileas is flashing out there. I know she is OK.

At 2:30 I jerk awake and check on Dileas. I see no flashes! The rope is cut, she is half way to China. I immediately rush into the sea and swim out. Soon, thank God, I find Dileas but the wind has changed  so she has turned on the anchor and the torch is flashing but no longer  towards the beach but out towards Taiwan. I lash, with some difficulty, the torch to the anchor attachment on the bow of the boat . It is 2:45 and I am swimming. What makes all this possible is that the sea is delightfully warm. Could not do this in Scotland.

I get back to my mat and watch Dileas flashing reassuringly. I sleep, but experience something very strange. I am cold. At 5:00, I am awake and shivering. It is true that I am sleeping outside on a beach in soaked T-shirt and shorts but I never thought that I  would feel cold.

Who cares, it is time to go. Dawn is rising as I load up  and raise sail in a silent, windless morning. Can I get away from here? The tiniest zephyr pushes me away from the island into  the wild and wistful ocean. Success!

6:00 as I ease away from Minna Jima after little sleep.

6:00 as I ease away from Minna Jima after little sleep.

Then, a soft but constant wind blows behind me and propels Dileas on a broad reach homeward.

I am on the high sea

I am on the high sea

By 9:00, I am close to home and all is well with the world. Then the wind fails. I spend 3 hours drifting, flapping around windless whilst in sight of my final anchorage.  I did not bring a motor. This is dull. Wait. Did I say dull? Ok there is a finality about reaching home but frankly sitting in a boat a couple of miles off the coast of Okinawa in bright sunshine and remarkable coloration, is pretty good. It all comes back to watching.

Suddenly a wind introduces itself. Regrettably straight offshore. After hours of precise tacking, I get over the reef and get very close to my mooring but after 6 hours at sea I cannot bear the idea of a series of manoeuvres to make  the last 30 metres to the buoy, behind which the breeze is blowing straight towards me.

I flop overboard and,  on one leg, walk Dileas to our anchorage.

Quelle histoire! Next time I will bring a motor.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 7 Comments