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I started my second training placement this week, which has been busy, with lots of new people, new workplace and new responsibilities, so I’m not really in the right state of mind to write a finely honed blog post. Instead, here’s a set of pictures from another ride I went on using my sister in law’s borrowed bike.

Corner shop.

 


Back street.

 


Local shop seen from under a small arcade.

 


Railway station, so small it doesn’t have a ticket barrier, but not so isolated that it lacks a drinks machine.

 


Old house, still inhabited despite appearances.

 


Railway crossing the Miyagawa river

 


Roadside business, Miyagawa village.

 


Rice harvester unloading in the countryside. Passing rice harvesters on the narrow roads was a minor hazard.

 

“Wind Clan”, apparently the place Cadillacs go to die.

 


Tamaru (“Tama-Loo”)  Station complete with hand painted sign over the door.

 


Very optimistic taxi waiting for the next train at Tamaru.

 

Cycle lane. In the manner of cycle lanes the world over it lasted for all of half a kilometre and vanished into a road Island.

Grateful as I was for the use of this bike, it lacked certain things I’m used to, like 25 other gears. I’d cycled about 9km in an hour and it felt like a lot further, so this is as far as I got.

I am not working out schemes with Eldest Son to take bikes with us next time and go on a tour. Not at all.

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Last week I was left to my own devices for an afternoon, so I went exploring up into the hills, an interesting experience on a three speed heavyweight like this which is built to go trundling a couple of kilometres to the shops and back.

After following a couple of promising routes which turned out like this:

 

I managed to get out of the city and into the hills, where the rice harvest hadn’t quite started.

I could have gone further but that meant going downhill, which would have meant coming back uphill, so I turned around and headed back towards the coast.

I passed a couple of these on the way. I thought they were just unfinished buildings, but seen close up they are Tsunami Shelters, built after the massive wave that hit Japan in 2001. This one is 9.5m (31ft) tall. You could fit all the surrounding buildings underneath it. This region wasn’t affected so badly by the Tsunami but they seem to have taken the attitude there’s no point taking chances.

A bit awkward for wheelchair users though.

Writing signs on Japanese roads must be quite a skilled job.

Eventually I found a way to the sea. I don’t speak Japanese so for all I know the sign could say “No bikes beyond this point” but nobody scowled at me when I cycled past it.

There was a school directly behind me when I took this picture which is an example of the basic unfairness of the Universe: all you could see from my school was a slag heap.

The two rocks of Meoto-Iwa which are considered to be ‘Married’ symbolised by he rice rope hanging between them. It occurred to me afterwards that I was probably not supposed to take a bicycle here at all, but no-one seemed to mind. Probably they just assumed that as a stupid foreigner I didn’t know any better.

Honestly, they build half a cycleway and then just stop…

By this time it was getting a bit dark so I headed back, got lost, found the coast road and managed to ride about three times further than I needed to in order to get to my in-laws home, narrowly missing a barrier across the road in the way.

I since discovered that on several occasions I was  just a few kilometres from something interesting. Am dreaming up schemes to take a proper bike with me next time.

 

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One thing you can say for the french: they know how to make an impressive railway station.

It would have been even better if Eurostar had managed to get our train into the station on time, but I’m not going to complain too much as the late arrival in Paris Nord was due to a genuine medical emergency.

Unfortunately this also gave us fifteen minutes to get to Paris Est to catch the train to Stuttgart, and Paris Est was twenty minutes away. This nearly caused another medical emergency as we tried to get the family and three wheely suitcases through central Paris.

Our train was in the platform and due to depart in four minutes and just to make it more fun the Stuttgart section of the train was at the other end. And we were in the end coach. And the doors are locked two minutes before the trains leave.

We made it though. And we were able breathe normally by the time we reached Strasbourg…

 

 

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Fountains Abbey, once a centre of learning, then a rather large garden ornament in a formal garden made by John Aislabie (1670 – 1742) , now part of the Studley Royal Park  which we visited with the boys last week.

Our boys are what the Brits and Americans would call “Free range”: they cross the village alone to go to school, see friends, and return when they are bored/hungry/broke something. Eldest goes to school on the other side of the city, which involves riding a bus and a tram every day, on his own, so when we went to  Fountains Abbey they decided to do a treasure hunt with their usual enthusiasm.

And promptly vanished, somewhere in the 323 hectare (800 acre) estate.

After walking the length of the place three times and mindful that it was getting dark -and more importantly, this is a world heritage site and we’re liable if the boys break anything- we asked the staff of the park to keep an eye open, which they duly did, bless them. The boys were found soon after, walking back to the gate after finding the last clue. Of course, yours truly was at the far end of the estate by this time, and so they then came to find me, and get us all back together again. The boys all got ice cream from Grandma.

Heroic rescuer was happy to sit down and used the excuse that I was researching the history of the place, so here it is…

John Aislabie was quite a ‘character’  or more crudely, a lying corrupt toff who sold his principles to the highest bidder. He went from being rich to very rich on the basis of the South Sea Company, which specialised in slaves, government debt and dodgy deals, all ‘backed’ by a slightly illegal bank and in cahoots with the government, the king and the kings girlfriend. Aislabie was the Chancellor of the Exchequer and took bribes to persuade the government to allow the formation of the company, so when the ‘South Sea Bubble’ inevitably collapsed causing hundreds of thousands of people to lose all they had and get stuck in debt, he wasn’t terribly popular.

Aislabie was found guilty of the “most notorious, dangerous and infamous corruption”: by the the House of Commons: being called a very, very, corrupt person by politicians must have hurt. There was a serious suggestion that the bankers should all be tied up in a sack full of snakes and thrown into the Thames but the river was filthy enough as it was, so Aislabie was imprisoned in the tower of London (don’t feel sorry for him: it was a nice snug apartment) then sent back home for being a naughty boy, where he showed his remorse by building the water gardens and introducing landscape gardening to England. He died at 72 and his son managed to scrape enough together to buy the Abbey soon after as a garden ornament.

I’m sure all the thousands of slaves and bankrupted investors must have felt it was all worthwhile.

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More wandering about in York. Part of the waterfront before the tour boats start churning the water up. The building on the extreme right is a pub which flooded so often it ceased to be a niusance and became a part of the attraction.

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There was some sort of cycling event recently in York, and one of the ways the area celebrated was by hanging lots of yellow bikes off the sides of buildings. This one is one of my favourites, hanging on ‘a pub for grown-ups’ in the city centre.

 

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The Shambles in York. Ghost town like appearance is because sensible people are still in bed.

Later in the day the tourists will come out and cycling is not allowed, although you can barely walk down here during the day, let alone cycle.

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The Millennium bridge in York, part of the city of York orbital cycle route which I’ve been using a lot in the last few days.

The white arrows at the bottom of the picture are three speed bumps. This is essential to stop anyone riding too fast off the bridge and along the straight, wide cycleways on either side. Presumably this important safety feature will soon be added to all road bridges.

So, we made it to the UK without missing a train or getting stuck in the Paris suburbs, and I’m trying to get used to the place. Considering I grew up here that’s a surprisingly complicated process.

So far, We’ve remembered that because vehicles drive on the left you need to get onto the bus on the left hand side. It is therefore pointless to wait at the bus stop on the right-hand side of the road. Fortunately Eldest Son was a bit more awake than me this morning and diverted us all to the correct stop before the bus came.

Further adventures, and hopefully more coherent blog entries to follow.

We’re all being tourists for the day. In the morning we visit Inuyama Castle, The castle, like most in Japan was made almost entirely of wood, long before nasty things like cannon came on the scene. It is built in layers like a giant wedding cake, although a wedding cake doesn’t have specially built towers for ‘The dropping of rocks on people’.

I was rather taken by this idea. I wonder how you arrange for the people who really need a rock dropped on them to walk past at the right moment?*

On the way back we meet a licensed Ninja walking up the road, with full uniform, sword, throwing stars, and a nice paper umbrella to keep the sun off. He’s more than happy for the boys to have their photograph taken with him and demonstrates the best way to kill someone with a throwing star. Then, this being Japan, we are all piled back into a taxi to go to the next place of enlightenment.

*And are they taking nominations?

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