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Catching the ‘super’ ferry to Shozu Island.

Your correspondent on the right, jet-lagged, ill shaven, and in need of a shower. Pretty well normal, in other words.


Normally in Japan we go straight from the airport to Beautiful Wife’s family but this time we decided to go for a quick tour first, which is why ended up wandering through Takamatsu looking for a ferry on our first afternoon. After trekking around and through several buildings and almost visiting an art gallery by mistake, we come around a corner about 500 metres from the railway station and there is the ferry terminal.

The ferry is just leaving.

We wait for the next one in the company of some schoolchildren and an old lady bringing in the shopping. Feel slightly envious of people who get to do this every day, especially when the ferry turns up and we wind our way through several smaller islands to get to Shodoshima. When we get to the port there is a bus stop but no bus, and one taxi. Beautiful Wife asks the driver the fare to our hotel, but he tells us just to call the hotel instead, because they will pick us up with a mini bus for free. Seven minutes later we are on our way to the ‘Angel Road’ hotel.

There are several reasons I couldn’t live in Japan for long. The Xenophobia, extreme pressure to conform, and the unpleasantly ugly cities would drive me mad after a while, but occasionally land in a corner where I reckon the advantages could perhaps almost make up for it. Looking out of our bedroom window I think this is one of those corners.

The hotel is named for a natural causeway that connects the beach to a small Island about 500 metres away, which you can cross at low tide. At night the beach is floodlit, “so you can cross even when it is dark” or, as I suspect, because otherwise people will try and cross in pitch darkness and the management don’t want bodies washing up on shore at breakfast time.

After the evening meal we wander across with a lot of other people to the small island with a tree festooned with small hearts. We refrain from making a heart, but do make a romantic, if oddly shaped shadow picture on the cliff.

We end the day with fireworks. We fail to light the complementary pack from the hotel, but fortunately a large group further along has more fireworks, and more success.


Inside the Shinkansen (“Bullet train”). Notice vast amount of legroom between seats.

Passing a station in a tiny village in the hills this summer. With the carpentry training going full swing now, I don’t think I’ll make a century like I planned to this year. I’m creaking when I move at the moment.

The first week is supposed to be the worst: after that my system should get used to it.

On the other hand, I’m learning about carpentry, which is good, even if it hurts.

Yesterday evening I had an invitation to visit a friend in York, and decided to ride. I’d borrowed a bike*, and York is one of the UK’s three ‘cycling cities’** that were being trumpeted to rival Amsterdam and Copenhagen as world-class cycling centres, so I figured I’d be okay. And I was, mostly because I started on a fairly minor road and some kind soul reminded me that in the UK people drive on the left before I met any traffic.

I can’t say I’m overwhelmed by the bike lanes: certainly I’d have preferred them to have priority over side roads like in Germany, and it would have been even better if the one I was using hadn’t given up after a couple of hundred metres and pitched me into the road, but it wasn’t too bad.

In the other hand, I liked these nifty speed lumps in the roads. I’m sure you’re all used to them by now, but humour me while I ramble on about them like some country cousin discovering electricity: they are just narrow enough for a car to drive over them fairly quickly without spilling the drivers coffee, so cars seem utterly focussed on keeping their wheels either side of the things. I soon noticed that vehicles overtaking would go over (round?) the more distant bump, giving me a reasonable amount of room. Just as well as I was on the road all the way to my friend’s house and back: if I’d followed the designated cycle route I’d most likely still be out there.

Come to think of it, none of the drivers who passed were using their phone either, because they had to concentrate on the road to avoid leaving part of the car on the road. If only we could get them to treat pedestrians with the same respect as their own vehicles…

*Thanks dad…

**The others being Bristol and… where are the others exactly?

Middle Son is out to get the full British Holiday Experience, so this week we took him paddling in the cold North Sea, and followed that up with ice cream in a biting wind.

I’m currently visiting family in York, UK and generally being a tourist, as in wandering about in a bewildered manner getting confused by the simplest things. So far these included the inability of the bus driver to sell me a return ticket, how to ‘tender exact change’ in unfamiliar currency, looking the wrong way when crossing the road (which coupled with the apparent disregard for the pedestrian crossings shown by UK drivers could end badly) and working a self-service till.

Fortunately York is on the tourist trail and full of similarly bewildered foreigners, so I fit right in. I’m even stopping at random to take photos, although on getting home I realised that having walked along the walls, along the river, through the centre and past the minster, surrounded by 800 years of history, my camera card was filled with pictures like these…

Oh, well. I’ll try again, once I’ve mastered crossing the road.

Went out with The Boys to ‘Haus Des Waldes‘; a permanent, interactive exhibition about forests, ecosystems, biodiversity, and their role in our lives. They like making sculptures of of natural materials and this one cropped up since our last visit.

I’d like to think I could make something like this in the Very Smallholding, but I probably wouldn’t have the determination to collect all those sticks.

The mill race again, with lamp post for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Maybe I went a bit too far and reached Narnia.

So it turns out that going from working alone and sitting most of the day, to working in a big hospital and running about carrying stuff and patients, is a bit of a shock to the system. I had expected this, but the cunning plan to write three posts and then let them update automatically didn’t work out because of all kinds of boring admin related stuff I had to get through the week before.

It was worth it though. I’ve been working with an incredible team for two weeks and I’ll rather miss going to the hospital on Monday. It’s also shown that I am capable of being an EMT / Rettungsanitäter / Ambo driver, and conversations with the crews who came to the hospital show that my experience at the school was to say the least, atypical, and that there are other options locally.

Meanwhile I’m working out a way to get to the UK without flying, which as usual is proving pretty awkward. I’m trying to find a way from Rottertam Centraal railway station to the ferry port and the P and O  website claims there is a bus running from the “Eurolines bus stop Conradstraat, against TNT Post, next to the Albeda building (at the station side of the walking bridge).” Which frankly doesn’t make a lot of sense. Unfortunately their ‘helpline’ puts you on hold, warbles along about how “everyone is a VIP” then cuts you off after a couple of (expensive) minutes. I think I’ve found the location on Google maps, but experience of these things is they are written by people who don’t know the city and have never ridden a bus in their life,  so if anyone reading this knows Rotterdam and could confirm the information, I’d be grateful.

While I wait in the holding queue on P and O I’m going to get some work on the rather neglected garden. Last time I was able to go there, the pumpkins were engaged in a battle to the death for world domination, or at least domination of that bit of the world which has cow poo and cardboard covering it, and the grass has grown so high you can’t tell where the beds end and the paths begin.

I’m also going to get some sleep, so if you could leave your comments quietly, that would be great. Thank you.

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