Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Today I went to one of the places I work to take in my textbook order. I hadn't been keeping track of the date, and thought there was still a week of February to go. It's too short a month! I feel as though I've had a week stolen from me. A week of vacation, which makes it worse.

The order form was due in by the end of the month, so taking it in was the only way to get it there on time. Besides that, I wanted to recheck one of the text choices I'd made, and didn't have a copy of the text at home.

As it turned out I was not able to check the copy at work either, because the foreign part-time teachers' room was locked and nobody was there who could open it for me. I don't have a key. It was dark up there until I found a light switch for the corridor. Why did they put the switch for the light right at the end of the corridor, so you have to navigate spooky darkness to find it?

After I had checked my decisions, based on gut feeling and trying to see through the walls using my psychic powers, I went over to the office, to sign in. That way I'll get my transportation paid for, and I never pass up the chance to get my transportation paid for.

Over in the office I chatted with the only office lady who was there today (also the most annoying, but by a narrow margin), who insisted on passing the time of day until there wasn't very much time of day left. I couldn't hurry her, though. You never, ever upset the office ladies. The last time somebody did that the office lady in question turned out to be a relative of the president of the university, and the teacher got fired. These two things weren't connected in any obvious way - the teacher was also a crappy teacher and there were plenty of reasons to fire her - but on the other hand there are a lot of crappy teachers out there who don't get fired.

So I listened to the office lady droning on about how beautiful my friend had become since she lost weight. She saw my friend for the first time in several years last November, and since then has talked about her every time I see her. I pointed out (again) that my friend was beautiful BEFORE she lost weight, and the office lady agreed, but added (again) that she had been METCHA surprised when she saw her again after ... how long was it ...? Four or five years? And she was so SLIM. And BEAUTIFUL. METCHA beautiful! How did she do it, asked the pudding-shaped office lady. Did she go on some special diet or something?

Normally I am happy to listen to her go on about my beautiful friend, but today I was in a hurry because I needed to get to the bookstore before it closed. The office lady is obsessed with my beautiful friend. She cannot stop talking about my beautiful friend. I think she is in love with my beautiful friend. I staved off intrusively personal questions about my beautiful friend and tried to escape without giving offence. I did not say, for example, "My beautiful friend's private life is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS," even though I wanted to. I just gave a lot of friendly, fuzzy answers, and tried to remember if I'd lied last time to get out of any of the tricky ones.

But perhaps she sensed my impatience, because she finally changed the subject as I was inching backwards out the door.

"Of course, YOU have always been skinny, ha ha ha," she said, as if to imply that losing weight wouldn't do ME any good, what a shame. I don't do nuance in Japanese very well but that was definitely a sympathetic laugh, and uncalled for. I do not need sympathy for being un-metcha-beautifiable. At least I am not a pudding with badly painted on eyebrows, like her.

Ah, writing that last bitchy sentence made me feel MUCH better. The office ladies always bring out the worst in me at that place. (Must remember to email Beautiful Friend to tell her to read this particular blog entry. I have a feeling she will enjoy it, because I had forgotten to tell her about the office lady's obsession with her, and HEY, YOU! IT'S ABOUT TIME YOU EMAILED ME, ANYWAY. WE ARE ALL WORRYING.)

After I was able to tear myself away from the office lady I sprinted down to the bookstore, hoping it wasn't closed yet.

The door was closed, but I could see the bookstore owner sitting inside so I opened the door. This was a lot harder than it looked. I thought I remembered it was an automatic door, but standing in front of it didn't work, and stepping back and approaching it again didn't work, and it was open a crack so I decided it was just a normal sliding door and slid it open. It was very stiff.

The bookstore owner looked up and greeted me cheerfully as I came in. He even remembered my name from last year. We made small talk, and he offered me a seat. I commented on how stiff the door was.

"The door isn't stiff," he laughed. "It's just that you're too skinny!"

I know he meant it as a compliment. It was just bad timing. I'm sure he meant that I am stylishly svelte.

I made my immensely complicated book order, which took at least half an hour because neither of us could understand the forms the university sent out. We guessed, using common sense. (But I must remember to call my boss to check, because common sense is not a strong point of bureaucracies.) After we'd finished I gave back the stamped, self-addressed envelope he'd sent me because I would not be needing it. That made him so very happy I came away worrying about his profit margin.

The automatic door opened for me on the way out. All the same, I went to a coffee shop on my way home and ate something fattening.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The sinking problem

Yesterday at the big river a cormorant called a meeting.

The gulls came too, to heckle.

"HEAR YE! HEAR YE!" shouted the cormorant, as everybody settled down to listen. "I have called this meeting to open a discussion about a terrible problem that we have noticed recently. Several of us have been sinking."

"How shocking! What have you been sinking about?" called a gull. The other gulls sniggered.

"I've got a sinking feeling about this," said another.

"SHUT UP!" yelled the cormorant. "I AM SERIOUS! WE HAVE A SINKING PROBLEM!"

But before he could continue, someone cried,


Everybody turned to look.

The caterer had arrived, with snacks.

The meeting was postponed.

I cycled off, perplexed. A sinking problem? What was he talking about?

A little further down the river I spotted another cormorant, and decided to ask.

"Excuse me!" I called.

"What?" asked the cormorant.

"I've just come from up the river there, and they were having a meeting, and I overheard something about a ..."

"You WHAT? Overheard? You mean you were EAVESDROPPING!" said the cormorant. "You're a SPY!"

"No, no!" I said hastily. "I'm not. Really, I just happened to be passing and ... "

I stopped. Something looked a little strange.

"What? Why are you staring?" demanded the cormorant.

"Er ... aren't you a little low in the water?" I asked.

"I don't know what you're talking about," said the cormorant, irritably.

"But ... but ... you seem to be ..."

"... sinking."

It was too late. I was talking to bubbles.

I sat on the riverbank, staring at the water. So THAT was the sinking problem! I wondered what was causing it.

After a while something wet nudged my hand, and I turned around.

"Hello," I said. "Do you know anything about the sinking problem?"

"No," said the dog, "But you can tickle me under the chin if you want."

So I did.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


The other day The Man and I were watching something on TV to do with the Olympics that involved back flips, and I told The Man that back flips were easier to do than forward flips. We used to have a trampoline when I was a kid, and I was good at flips.

I wonder if I could still do one now? I remember the last time I did a flip on a trampoline. It was about three years after I'd left home, and I hadn't been on a trampoline since I left, and nor was I a particularly athletic person. But I was sure I could do it, and I did. What happened afterwards wasn't quite what I expected, though.

I was living in Dunedin, and had been involved in a drama production. We finished the last performance, and had (of course) a last-night party, to which everybody who'd had anything to do with the play (and quite a few who hadn't) came. It was a good party, but a couple of hours into it a junior member of the cast suddenly announced that he was going to kill himself.

This was disturbing, to say the least. He was clearly extremely distressed, and people tried to talk to him, but he locked himself in the bathroom and refused to come out for quite a long time. Eventually he said that he would talk only to me and another member of the cast, an older man called Gordon. I didn't know Gordon or the young guy very well and was startled to be picked out like that, but of course I said I would talk with him. After a hasty discussion Gordon and I decided to take the young guy back to his flat, and he agreed.

What followed was another story. All I will say here is that the gothic hellhole that guy was living in was no place for a depressed person. Poor kid.

Anyway, after staying with him all night, we left at about nine in the morning, confident that he would be all right. (He was - we both followed up. In fact after the first few harrowing hours the three of us had had quite an interesting - and, in the end, cheerful - time.)

When I got home one of my flatmates was having breakfast with his girlfriend, and they asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with them to throw a ball around on the basketball court. They had recently been teasing me and telling me I was turning into an unfit and flabby typical student (this was true), so despite my lack of sleep I agreed, and off we went. I was still buzzing from the events of the night.

When we got to the gym we discovered that it was the day for the intellectually handicapped to use it. We could use it too, but we had to share the space with them. This just added to the fun, however, because it meant we had more people to play with. We threw balls around, did 'roly-polys' and fake ballet dancing, and a bunch of other interesting things. My head was gently humming from sleeplessness, and I felt high and happy. I don't think I had ever had so much fun at a gym.

And there was a trampoline.

I told my flatmate that I was pretty good on a trampoline, and he asked me how long it had been since I jumped on one.

"Oh, not that long, I said, airily. "I bet I can still do a flip."

A bunch of my new friends, who had been listening avidly, begged me to show them. So I got up on the trampoline, bounced a few times, and executed a perfect backward flip.

It felt weird. Remembering how wasn't a problem, but I hadn't done anything like that for a long time and it was like all the blood rushed from one end of my body to the other in a panic, and then back again. Whoosh! Whoosh! I felt a little dizzy, but also rather pleased with myself. I could still do it!

Everybody cheered and applauded wildly, and I bowed graciously. They wanted an encore, but I said I was pretty sure once was enough. I got off the trampoline and, surrounded by adoring fans, fainted clean away.

Coming round was a surreal experience. I wasn't sure where I was, and could hear people talking above me.

"She's dead."

"No, she isn't."

"Helloooo! Are you dead? Oooooh, yes, she's dead."

Hands were touching me tentatively, patting my face and arms and legs or whatever they could reach. When I opened my eyes I looked up into a circle of faces. All the mouths were open, some drooling, and everybody looked frightened. One was in tears. I thought it was the strangest dream I'd ever had. Then I realized I wasn't dreaming.

"I'm not dead," I announced.

This caused even louder and more excited celebration than my backward flip had.

It was MOST gratifying. I could make people happy just by waking up! A dozen or so pairs of hands helped me up, and wouldn't let me go until I had reassured them several times that I was fine now. When they saw that I was able to stand unaided they wanted to cuddle and dance with me instead. I didn't seem to be quite in control of my life. Everything felt strange and dreamlike, and not necessarily in a bad way.

My flatmate and his girlfriend weren't much use at all. To be fair, it had all happened very quickly, but still, they didn't need to laugh QUITE so hard. My flatmate was hooting and clutching his sides and had tears streaming down his face. His girlfriend was rolling around on the floor, gasping.

"You just VANISHED!" my flatmate said as he separated me from my dancing partners. "One moment you were there and then you just DISAPPEARED, and they were all bent over and saying you were dead. And then you suddenly popped up again and it was like the resurrection! With dancing and rejoicing and everything! God, that was funny."

He peered at me. "You look pale enough to be dead, though. We'd better take you home."

"I think I need a nap," I agreed, weakly. Then I roused myself a little. "But it was a good flip, wasn't it? You have to admit, IT WAS A GOOD FLIP."

It was also the last flip I ever did.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Tonight I watched the TV program "24" for the second time. (Is that really what it's called?) I saw it first a couple of weeks ago, well, half of it anyway, and last week missed it because I somehow blanked that channel. We have about four or five of remote controls with a million buttons on each of them labelled in tiny Japanese. I had picked up two at once and accidentally hit a button on one of them and didn't know which remote control or which button I'd hit. The screen went blank. By the time The Man came home and fixed it for me (by pushing another button, or perhaps the same one) the program had finished. Remote controls make me feel stupid.

Anyway, tonight I managed to watch an entire episode of "24", and enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time. It was really fun. I didn't have the foggiest idea what was going on, but I can tell you quite a lot about it anyway. Ignorance is no barrier to my infinite wisdom.

Here is what I can tell you:

1. Jake, no, Jack, is a Real Man. You can tell because he never smiles. He is always manly and deadly serious. People refer to him admiringly as a 'born killer.' He just happens to be on the right side. Many people don't realize this, however, so he is always on the run, either from the baddies or from people on his own side who have been led to understand that he is betraying them. He isn't, of course. He is saving the world. Why can't they SEE that?

2. Kate is a Real Woman, and also a Good Woman. You can tell because she always looks anxious and bewildered and never knows what is going on. She is probably terrifically intelligent but is in control of pretty well nothing. Well, she's a woman, isn't she? Her fate is in Jake's hands. Jack. Sorry. (It IS Jack, isn't it? Or is it Jake?) Kate is powerless. She is a pawn. Her role is to look anxious and to be used by both sides, and to be rescued by Jake (or Jack). Then it is her job to be grateful and traumatized.

3. There are some other women who are all sneaky and bitchy about each other, and therefore are also Real Women, only of the other sort. They are Bad, or at least Weak. I don't know who they are, actually, but you can tell they are Real Women. They are duplicitous and sly, spying on each other and telling tales. Men would never do such a thing, and neither would a Good Woman. Even the Bad Men have a code of honour, of sorts. Women don't, and that's why they are inferior and most things are their fault. (Except Kate, of course, who is powerless and therefore cannot be blamed for anything, although I fully expect her to blame herself when anything goes wrong.)

4. The President is a Good Man. You can tell because he is such a good judge of character. He believes in Jack (or Jake) when nobody else will. He knows that Jake (or Jack) is secretly saving the world, and that nobody else is to be trusted. People try to convince him otherwise, and he falters in his belief sometimes, but in the end he will be steadfast. And of course he will be right. That's why he is President and the others aren't. Also, people close to him will try to betray him, either because they are Bad or because they are trying to save him from Jake (or Jack) because they don't believe in Jack (or Jake) the way they should, but they will be wrong and the President will be right. And the world will be saved.

5. The Middle East is one place. You do not need to specify which country you are talking about. They're all the same anyway.

6. Anybody with an accent is instantly highly suspect and cannot be trusted. Some of them turn out to be all right after all, but that is just an accident of fate. They just happen to be on the right side because of something that happened to them to make them want to do the right thing. In other words, if they are on the right side it will be for the wrong reasons. They still can't be trusted. Accents are suspicious by default.

7. The world of "24" resembles the world of Enid Blyton in a lot of ways, especially Enid Blyton's Famous Five. There is more violence, and the good guys are American men rather than British children, and there is no dog (why is there no dog?), but the stakes are the same - keeping the Free World free and saving us from horrible foreigners.

8. The entire world of politics, bureaucracy, and business is teeming with conspiracies. Bad, rich, powerful people want to destroy everything so that they can get more money, or power, or both. Nobody is safe. It is only because of Jake (or Jack) that the world is not a nuclear wasteland. As long as Jack (or Jake) is around, it doesn't matter how rich or powerful the baddies are. They will lose. He always spots the Bad Guys, and will vacuum them up like an industrial strength vacuum cleaner. No speck of badness is safe from him. Well, one or two specks might trick him briefly and get away each week, but that's just so he can get them next week.

9. Jake (or Jack) is, of course, wracked with guilt and angst over all the dubious things he has to do to keep the world safe. This is why he never smiles. It is also why he will never get together with Kate. He will not want to sully such a pure and blameless woman, and not want to put her in danger, although he keeps getting her tangled up in it all anyway and then feeling guilty. But rather than leave the world without his protection, he will keep her at arm's length (kindly, of course), and suffer silently and alone, for all of us. That's just the kind of guy he is.

(Never mind how she feels.)

10. Jack (or Jake) might have brief affairs with Bad Women, but these affairs will never last. The women will deserve danger and abandonment, because they will be Bad, or at least Weak. It might not be obvious at first, but they will be. They will betray him and thus turn out to be conveniently disposable. Then they will probably die horribly. They might repent as they are dying, and he will be sad and manly and regretful about it, but we will know it was their own fault. Some of them will be so evil they won't even repent.

(I have to admit I have seen nothing that even suggests that anything like this has happened or will happen in the two shows I've seen, but I fully expect it to and will be disappointed if it doesn't.)

"24" is really, really fun to watch.

That's all. Feel free to add to this, and also to correct anything I've written above. I expect to be wildly wrong as far as facts go, although I think I've caught the spirit of the program. But be kind, please. Remember I have only seen it twice (once-and-a-half, really) and didn't understand what was going on either time.

Also, can someone tell me - did a bomb go off in L.A.? I think I missed that bit. Not that it really matters. If a bomb went off in L.A. then that just proves that L.A. people is full of bad, or at least disposable, people. If some good people got taken out that just gives Jake (or Jack) something else to not smile about. We can't have him cheering up.

That would spoil the show.

Monday, February 20, 2006


There was a crisis down at the river yesterday. Cat had lost his tail. All he had left was a pathetic stump.

He climbed up onto the bridge to address the citizens of the river.

"Life without a tail is meaningless!" he cried.

Everybody was shocked.

"He's going to jump!" shouted a heron.

"No, I'm not," said Cat. "I'm not stupid. I just want my tail back. Somebody took it."

"Why should we care?" asked the heron.

"Because if I don't get my tail back I'll have you for breakfast," said Cat. "HA HA HA!"

"IT'S AN EMERGENCY!" shouted the heron. "LET US PRAY!"

He called a prayer meeting.

Two birds participated from the middle of the river.

"You're supposed to be bowing your head," hissed the front bird.

"I can pray in an upright position," said the other. "The Great Bird in the Sky doesn't mind."


"Does not!"

"Does so!"

"Does not!"

One other heron stood off alone, apart from the other birds.

"Aren't you going to go to church?" I asked.

"No. I've been excommunicated," said the heron. "I'm a Buddhist."

"Oh. Are you going to hunt for Cat's tail?"

"SHHH! I'm meditating!" said the heron. "All is One, and Cat's tail is a part of the All. Or ... no, hold on ... All is Nothing, and Cat's tail is part of Nothing. Nothing has a tail. No, wait ... tails are All!"

He paused.

"You're confusing me. Go away."

"Sorry," I said.

"I can't empty my mind with you around. OMNE PADME HUMMMMM."

The egret called a duck meeting.

"We'll split up," she said, bossily "You go that way, and you lot go that way over there, and you go up on the bank and check it out, and I'll wait here and you can all report back to me in half an hour."

I overheard two of the ducks complaining as they waddled off.

"How come we always have to do all the work?" grumbled the drake. "She just stands there and looks good, and thinks that's enough."

"Someone has to be the leader," explained his wife. "Otherwise we'd be all over the place."

"We're all over the place anyway," said the drake.

They joined some other ducks, who were hunting frantically.

"Aren't you going to pray?" I asked.

"We're atheists," said the ducks. "We'll look for the tail, and we'll believe it when we see it."

"I don't think you'll find it here," I said.

"What do you know?" they said. "And how come you're not helping? That guy over there is helping. You're just criticizing and taking pictures."

"Sorry," I said. "He doesn't seem to be helping much, though. All he's found is a bicycle wheel."

"So? It's better than nothing!" said the ducks. "Cat might be happy with a bicycle wheel instead of a tail. Think how useful a bicycle wheel could be!"

"How useful could it be?" I asked, puzzled.

"You should know," said the ducks. "You don't have a tail, do you? And you have TWO bicycle wheels."

While everybody was hunting, Cat had disappeared inside the bridge. Crow, who was checking under the bridge, emerged from the other side - and there was Cat!

Crow did a double-take.


"Oh, yeah," said Cat. "Er, so it did."

Cries of rejoicing echoed over the river.



"Idiot! You're supposed to be giving a prayer of thanksgiving! Bow your head and close your wings!"

"I can pray with my wings spread and my head up. The Great Bird in the Sky doesn't care."

"Does so!"

"Does not!"

"Does so!"

"Does not!"

"OOOOOHHMMMMMM. Cat is One with Tail. I KNEW I'd get it right eventually."

"Damn," said Cat. "Who put my tail back? I was just getting used to life without it. AND I was looking forward to breakfast."

He looked thoughtful.

"I wonder if I could get away with just a LITTLE heron?"

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Big river

Yesterday I went down to the BIG river, to see what was going on there. It is years since I went that way. I used to cycle along the river to work once a week, but since that particular job finished I don't think I've been back. It's not a direction I usually go.

One thing that has changed is that homeless people have set up tents all along the riverbanks. There used to be a handful of homeless people down there, but now there are hundreds.

They were on both sides of the river. It was a gray sort of day yesterday, and the blue of their tarpaulin tents was the only colour.

I cycled quite a long way, and these tents were scattered all along the river.

There were a lot of people walking their dogs. One man had a gorgeous long-legged dog. I don't know the name of the breed but it's a very distinctive one, so no doubt someone will be able to tell me. I took several pictures but unfortunately only two came out any good, and one is from behind.

I wanted to show you what a beautiful, dignified dog it was. I didn't realize that while I was fumbling with the camera things had been happening, resulting in a slight loss of dignity. This is not the picture I intended to take.

I thought the dog looked rather pleased with itself, though. I suppose I would be too, if I'd trained someone to follow me around cleaning up after me.

More river pictures will come after I've sorted them all out.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Free pills and vacations

Today I visited one of my universities to take in a document that arrived late, regarding one of my foreign students. In the International Studies office I was filling out the form about the student when Professor N. came in. He is, I recently discovered, an important person on campus.

"Hello! What are you doing here?" he asked.

"I am trying to remember how to spell 'conscientious'," I said.

Professor N., who was wearing a suit and carrying a tennis racquet, invited me to have a cup of coffee with him. He made the coffee for me himself, and my opinion of him shot up. There were two women in the office and he didn't automatically ask them to do it.

While he was preparing the coffee I checked out some of the pamphlets lying around the office. There was one from an outside company advertising English study abroad programs. The only English on the pamphlet was on the front. It said:


It's a good thing I like irony. Japanese universities are full of it.

Professor N. and I sat and chatted for a while. He told me that he used to work in a high school, and after he retired he took the job at the university. I asked him how the two jobs compared, and he became confidential.

"Actually, at the high school the atmosphere amongst the teaching staff was better," he said. Then he added, "To tell the truth, the level of scholarship was higher, too. But that's a secret, between you and me."

"I won't tell anybody," I lied. "But I'm not surprised, really."

He asked me about my classes, and whether I was happy at the university.

"Oh, yes," I said. "I enjoy it, most of the time. Last year I had some very good classes." I paused, as the word DIARRHEA! popped into my head. "Well, I had some very INTERESTING classes," I amended.

He told me that my students like me. "They talk about you a lot," he said. "Are you happy here?"

I said I was.

"Good," he said. "The university wants you to stay."

That was nice to hear. It is a shame that he is retiring (again) soon. I don't know when, but he won't be around for much longer, I suspect. But even if he were staying I don't think even he could wangle me a 'real' (i.e. full-time) job there. I happen to know that there is VERY stiff resistance to the idea up in the ivory towers there. They had one bad experience with a full-time foreigner once, about twenty years ago, and made it unofficial policy not to ever hire another one. If one is bad, we must ALL be bad, right? Also, foreign academics might make them feel embarrassed about their own lack of scholarly activity.

I wanted to ask him about this, but didn't. Instead I put in a plug for the part-time Japanese teachers of Japanese language, who impress me by the way they get together in the teachers' room to discuss their students' progress, and who actually TALK to each other, and to me, and who are clearly serious teachers. My foreign students love them.

He said he was glad to hear it. I stressed the cooperation thing.

"They cooperate with each other, to help the students," I said. "This is the only place I work where I see that. Most teachers don't even talk to each other. But the part-timers here really care about the students."

He nodded. "Thank you for telling me," he said. "I will remember that."

Eventually I felt that the ice was broken enough that I could ask him the question I'd been wanting to ask since I saw him.

"Do you play tennis in a suit?" I asked, pointing to the tennis racquet.

"Oh, no," he replied. "This is for inside. I have stiff shoulders." He demonstrated by hitting himself repeatedly on the shoulder with the edge of the racquet, hard.

"Oh, I see," I said, as if it made perfect sense to use a tennis racquet to treat stiff shoulders, and perhaps it did.

As we were leaving we went past the school clinic.

"That is the school clinic," he told me. "You should go there, if you have a headache. You can lie down and they will give you pills."

"That's good to know," I said.

"They are good pills," he added. "And they are free! You should remember to come here."

That was good to know, too, although it also made me curious. He seemed VERY enthusiastic about the free pills. I made a mental note to develop a headache one day and find out why.

As we were parting I asked him if he would be in the office every day during the vacation. He said he would, most days, and sighed.

"I don't like it," he said. "I became a teacher because I wanted to have free time. I don't know why I have to be here every day."

Apparently it doesn't help to be at the top of the academic heap when it comes to vacations, and suddenly I was glad to be a humble part-timer. We might not get bonuses or medical insurance or pensions or job security or research money or offices or the very high salaries full-timers get (for fewer classes) or anything else, but we also don't have to attend endless meetings, or deal with the extremely unpleasant power games on the top floor. We also get free pills, as I discovered today, and we get our vacations.

Vacations are GOOD.

No weirdos

Yesterday The Man and I went into Osaka. While we were on the train a young woman, who looked completely normal, suddenly laughed and made a strange wailing noise. At first I tried to convince The Man that it was not yet another weirdo, it was just that child in the pram over there, see? It's just a kid. It's perfectly normal.

But then the woman did it again, and The Man grinned and said,

"See? It's because of you."

I thought about it for a moment.

"But it mostly happens to me when I'm with you," I pointed out. "That means it's because of you as well."

"Really?" he said, doubtfully.

"Really," I replied firmly.


Today I went to the supermarket by myself. As I cycled along I thought about what I'd said, and decided that today I would check my assertion. Would I see any weirdos on my grocery trip?

I didn't see any weirdos on the way there. In the supermarket as I went round the aisles I didn't see any either. When I'd finished, I chose, naturally, the checkout with the shortest line. There was only one elderly woman ahead of me.

Ten minutes later I was still in the shortest line, but it was also the only line that wasn't moving. The woman ahead of me was having a terrible time counting out her money. She had her nose almost inside her wallet, and was counting out coins one by one, taking some back, adding more, dropping some, putting them back in her wallet, checking what she'd given, taking some back, adding some more, asking again how much it was, dropping her wallet, picking it up, looking for dropped coins, taking all her coins back, counting some out again, asking the price, checking what she'd already given, taking some back, adding some more, dropping some...

This went on and on. I watched, fascinated. Then I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to be looking out for weirdos.

I decided the woman in front of me didn't count. She was just old, and having a little trouble with money. Well, oldish, anyway. (I will admit to being a little surprised when I saw her face and saw how old she wasn't - but she wasn't young, either.) It could happen to anybody, right? Money is tricky. I'm not counting her.

I only encounter weirdos when I am with The Man.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More curling

I just watched the Japan-Norway women's curling match. (Is it called a match?) It is the first curling I have ever watched, and thanks to Puppy Curling I sort of understood what was happening. I've been watching for nearly three hours, and that was a videotaped game so I suppose the real thing was longer. Gawd, how long IS a curling game? They must go on forever!

Curling shoes are magic. One minute a player will be sliding like they're on skates, and the next they are walking normally. How do they DO that?

But quite aside from the magical shoes, it's a FASCINATING game, absurd and compelling all at once. I did not expect to get excited watching a curling match, and particularly one that was so uneven (the Japanese were terribly outclassed), but ... well, it was so DRAMATIC. I love the intensity of the players, and how when they let the stone go they start chasing it and yelping and carrying on, and doing the frantic sweeping thing. I love the way the camera stays on the thrower's face after the stone starts sliding so you can see them WILLING the stone to go where they want it to go, and then the stone slides so slooooowly you think it will never get there but then it does and even goes too far sometimes, and suddenly a new pattern emerges in the stones. I got all tense watching. I didn't know you could get tense watching curling, but you can. Easily.

Also, it's a mean sort of game, I discovered. One side will make a really great shot and then the other side will DESTROY it - and then look all smug. It's not nearly as civilized as I'd thought. They're just pretending to be polite. Actually they are plotting the other team's TOTAL DESTRUCTION (well, of course they are!), and getting all gleeful when they succeed.

I want the Japanese team to win a medal, although it's not looking good. Japan has no medals so far, and everybody is terribly disappointed. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the only Japanese national sporting heroes this Olympics turned out to be the women's curling team? Curling could become the new national obsession - the new glamour sport! I know that sounds unlikely, but this is Japan. Anything can happen here, and frequently does.

The Kiwis lost again today. Zannen deshita.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Curling Kiwis

Doing a little blog-hopping this evening, I was reading Berlin Bear and he linked to Power Lunch, and from there I ended up at a Washington Post Olympic blogger, Dan Steinberg. Power Blogger mentioned that 'something bizarre is going on' over there, because Dan has 'adopted the New Zealand curling team.' (This link is to the New Zealand Curling Association. They seem to think I am a vampire just because I'm awake after 3am.)

Power Blogger is half right. Dan Steinberg has adopted the Kiwi curling team, yes, but while that might seem bizarre on the surface, if you dig a little deeper it's a perfectly understandable thing to do. Dan Steinberg is obviously a good person. The Kiwi curling team needed to be adopted by someone, and preferably someone a bit louder than they are, otherwise nobody would even notice they were there. And they SHOULD be noticed, because they are MAKING HISTORY. This is the first time a New Zealand curling team has ever made it to the Olympics.

Dan writes about them in this post (as well as several others) and if you are the kind of person who cheers on the underdog, the Kiwi curling team is PERFECT for you. According to Wikipedia they are currently coming last.

But Dan is not only a good person, he is a wise blogger. By adopting the Kiwi curling team he is guaranteed blog scoop after blog scoop. I will be getting all my news about them from him from now on. For some mysterious reason this fascinating team never turns up on Japanese TV. (I may also end up learning more than I really want to about about cheese, because Dan seems to be obsessed with cheese as well as curling. It is a small price to pay.)

Oh, and by the way, if you understand curling as much as I do (i.e. not at all) then this Curling Puppies game (found somewhere in comments on Dan's blog) might educate as well as entertain you. I say 'might' because I have to admit it didn't work very well for me (one of my puppies celebrated his awful result by lifting his leg and peeing everywhere) but it was fun, in a slow, baffling sort of way. Maybe you will be able to make more sense of it than I did.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The missing event

Last night The Man and I watched the downhill skiing (or was that the night before? I'm losing track), the ski jumping, and the speed skating. The downhill skiing was fun, mostly because a French guy won. This was exciting because he wasn't expected to win. The newspaper had an article about this event that went on and on about various other downhill racers, and the Japanese announcers went on and on about various other racers, but nobody went on about him. He came out of nowhere and made all the experts look silly. I like it when experts are made to look silly.

The men's speed skating was hilarious. I know it wasn't meant to be funny, but it was. I think it's the posture the skaters use. They look so SNEAKY, like spies stealing furtively past a window all hunched over. And they all look like they're holding something secretly behind their backs. Also, their actual movements are kind of slow (if you don't notice how fast the background is whizzing by) which adds to the sneakiness factor. You kind of expect them to be on tiptoe. And then when they suddenly burst into a flurry of movement and whiz past someone, they do that sneakily, too. They sneak up behind, and then - HA HA! You weren't expecting THAT, were you? - pass them.

I enjoyed that.

We watched a tiny bit of skateboarding but it was boring. It looked like a bunch of kids playing in a park. Why is it an Olympic sport? I'm sure it is difficult, but it isn't interesting to watch, at least for me. Perhaps it's the baggy clothes. It looks like a bunch of wanna-be rappers with baggy clothes doing tricks meant to impress. Even the accidents weren't interesting. I was not impressed. Sorry.

We also watched something called, in Japanese, a paashuuto. We couldn't figure out what this meant at first, and expected something with parachutes. How exciting! But it turned out to be 'pursuit,' and while it was interesting, no parachutes were involved. For the first part of the race the skiers had to use a traditional method of skiing where they followed tracks and their skis were in straight lines even for uphill (I'm sure there's a proper vocabulary for this but I don't know it and can't be bothered looking it up), and the second part was freestyle. It all looked terrifically strenuous. Plus there was a crash at the beginning and the guy who had the accident came up from behind and got a silver medal anyway. How wonderful!

But I started thinking when the announcers talked about the 'traditional' part of this sport, and wondered whether there was any event for what is probably the oldest and most traditional winter sport. I asked The Man, and he didn't think so. I checked it out on the Internet later, and he was right. There is no Olympic Snowball Fight.

Why on earth not?

We think this would be a fabulous event, and can't imagine why they left it out. While we were talking about it we refined the idea a little further. We think the Olympic Snowball Fight should have very few rules, since that is the tradition, and that all world leaders should be obliged to compete. Also, it should be an interactive spectator event, with the audience encouraged to participate from behind the sidelines. That would be the only rule - spectators would be behind lines and not allowed to cross. Aside from that, anything goes. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be? Players and spectators would be body searched before the match, but if someone managed to sneak a rock into a snowball, say, or a tiny nuclear bomb, then good for them.

We think it would be fabulously popular, and the Olympic Committee should embrace the idea as it would attract an enormous amount of media attention and HUGE live audiences. Who wouldn't welcome the chance to throw a snowball with a particularly sharp surprise enclosed at (insert the world leader of your choice here). And, as a side benefit, international political problems could be sorted out every four years in a civilized and traditional way. (Civilized compared to how it's done now, I mean.)

I think we're on to something. All we need now is a scoring system.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympic blogging

I don't know if I can manage Olympic blogging. I'm already two days behind.

I made a huge effort to stay awake long enough to see the opening ceremony. Why did they schedule it for four in the morning? How absurd.

I ended up seeing only a little before I gave up and went to bed, so it was mostly wasted effort. My eyes kept closing. All I can remember is a bunch of skaters with their hair on fire going as fast as they could to escape the flames. Poor things. Why didn't anybody help them?

Maybe they had bacon fat in their hair. I discovered last night as I was cooking dinner that bacon fat is extremely volatile. It makes lovely big flames that are capable of shooting quite far up the kitchen wall. Don't tell The Man, though. He will worry, and there is no need. The wall behind the grill is tiled, for just such emergencies. All you have to do is turn off the grill and wait for the fire to burn itself out. That's what I did, and I also muttered, "Oh dear, oh dear, that's no good," while I was waiting. I have become very good at suppressing the occasional urge to shout obscenities. It is a side effect of working in a language classroom, where students who refuse to learn the most basic English will pick up rude language at lightening speed EVEN IF YOU ONLY WHISPER IT, and will repeat it back at you at every opportunity.

The Man told me that the flaming hair in the Olympic ceremony signified passion, according to the commentary. All I can say is that if my hair was on fire I expect I'd feel pretty passionate, too, just like I did when my bacon erupted.

Also, at some point during the opening ceremony when I had my eyes open, I saw a pulsating red heart. From certain camera angles it looked like a bunch of red maggots crawling over a Valentine card. It was an astonishing effect. I wonder what it was all about? I couldn't stay awake long enough to find out.

I am looking forward to an excess of television watching over the next few weeks. I hope the scheduling becomes a little more civilized.

The New Zealand news site, Stuff, has a rather interesting poll up on their sports page. The question is:

Will you watch any of the Winter Olympics?

There are four answers you can choose from:

Yes - for the sport
Yes - for the crashes
Only if NZ does well

So far, 11% are watching it for the crashes. How ghoulish of them. I am watching it for The Man's running commentary on the Japanese athletes. Last night (early this morning, rather), for example, I learned that one delicate little flower of Japanese womanhood, a top athlete, has secondary fame here as a husband-basher. This sort of information makes the whole effort of staying awake worthwhile. (Well, the occasional crash helps, too.)

The Man manages to stay awake all night far better than I do. He is superhuman. However, yesterday afternoon I noticed he was reading a book with his eyes closed. I think he might be cheating.

Friday, February 10, 2006


I am currently reading a book called Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form, by Michael Sims. It is a very interesting book, and I am learning all kinds of things.

Today, for example, I learned that the scientific name for earwax is cerumen, and that human beings can be divided into two types: those with sticky, brown, wet cerumen, and those with brittle, greyish or beige cerumen. The book says that in general, Africans and Europeans possess the former and Asians the latter. He writes that wet wax is a dominant trait and dry recessive. He also adds that scientists in Japan discovered that Japanese breast cancer rates are higher in women whose ceruminous glands produce sticky earwax.

Well. How about that, eh? I expect everybody who reads this to get out their cotton buds and investigate which section of humanity they belong to.

(The first section of this post was dedicated to Ms Mac, who never goes anywhere without her cotton buds.)

I also learned, from the same book, that the duck-billed platypus has more REM sleep than any other creature, at eight hours a day. This leads me to wonder what the duck-billed platypus dreams of. You could fit an awful lot of dreaming into eight hours.

(The second section of this post is dedicated to The Editter, who, in the comments of this post, invented the hog-nosed ratypus, a close cousin of the duck-billed platypus.)

This post may be a trivial one, but you have to admit you're just a little bit cleverer now than you were before you read it. Also, you have some new topics of conversation for those awkward moments at dinner parties.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The gas man cometh

Today when I came home there was a toolbox by the side of the house where I usually park my bicycle. I gathered from this that the gas man had come, to check the appliances and to change the meter. He left a note yesterday saying that he'd come when we were out, and he would be returning.

I was right. The Man opened the door, followed closely by the gas man, and asked,

"How do you turn on the oven? We can't turn on the oven! The levers won't move!"

"The oven?" I said. We have a very old gas oven. "Open the door and hold both levers down, then close the door still holding the levers down, count to ten, and release the top lever. The fan will start, but wait for the click and if it doesn't go WHOOMPH! put the bottom lever up and do it again."

"Door open?" he said.

"Door open?" said the gas man. They both laughed.

"Yes. Open the door and then hold down the levers and then close the door and then... "

"Can you show us?"

I went through to the kitchen, and the gas man watched, AWED, as The Man followed my instructions. First we forgot to turn the gas on, but once we'd done that we tried again. There was the roaring sound of the fan and gas hissing and then *click* - just as I noticed that I'd forgotten the OTHER preliminary two steps. We hadn't set the timer and temperature knobs. Of course nothing happened.

I turned the two knobs, put the lever back up and opened the door to try again. The Man sniffed.

"I can smell gas," he said, looking alarmed.

"Don't worry," I said. "It's always like that. And it never starts the first time anyway."

"Isn't it dangerous?" he asked.

"No, of course not," I said. Then I added, "But I always stand back just in case."

This time I did it myself. I held the lever down, closed the door, counted to ten, released the top lever, and jumped back dramatically. The gas man took a step back by the door, looking a little nervous, and The Man held a chair up to shield himself from the potential explosion.

We waited.

"Click ... WHOOMPH!" said the oven as the gas ignited. Then it settled down to its busy hum.

"It works!" said the gas man, and laughed and laughed and laughed, from relief, probably.

It was an extremely misleading incident, because the gas man probably thinks that The Man can't find his way around a kitchen. It is true that he never uses the oven. However, the last time I used it was ... actually, I can't remember the last time I used it. I just happen to know how to turn it on, that's all. It's an excellent oven, though. It heats up very quickly, and cooks fast and evenly. I'm sure if either of us liked baking we'd be very fond of it.

As it is, we find it just a little intimidating. When something is that complicated to get started, you expect it to do something more exciting than just bake cookies. You expect LIFT OFF.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Today I went to Ashiya, to buy something for a friend. What I wanted to buy was not there, but I had an interesting time anyway. After I had unsuccessfully looked for what I wanted in the appropriate shop, I went into a stationery shop, because ... er ... um ... because it was there. What other reason do you need to go into a stationery shop? I am addicted to stationery shops, and they are dangerous places for me. I usually end up coming home with something utterly wonderful and utterly unnecessary that I will never look at again, much less use.

This time I managed to restrain myself, though. I didn't buy anything. I think that might have been because I got distracted. I was wandering the aisles and had come to the picture frame aisle, which didn't hold much of interest for me so I was just passing through. But there I saw a sign on a shelf. It said:

Please hadle with care.

I contemplated this for a while, wondering, as usual, how people can manage to get even a four word sign wrong. I mean, REALLY. They had to have copied it from somewhere, right? And when they copied it they got it WRONG. It is not even an English mistake. It is a simple COPYING mistake.

I decided that the sign was a reassuring one. I will always be assured of a job here. There is no chance that Japanese people will suddenly 'get' English. It will always be mysterious gobbledegook to them, and I will be the expert.

I wandered a bit further down the aisle, and came across another sign. This one said:

Violators will be pushed.

"OH, YEAH?" I thought. For some reason this sign made me suddenly feel all aggressive.

And then I started to wonder how one 'violated.' I could think of lots of options, but I wasn't sure which ones the sign referred to. There were no clues.

I wanted to take a picture, but although I had my camera with me I wasn't sure that taking pictures was allowed. A lot of shops have 'no cameras' signs. I hadn't seen one, but what if taking pictures turned me into a 'violator'? Also, it was a very narrow aisle, and getting out my camera was too much trouble.

So I didn't take a picture. Sorry. But if you want to see the sign, go to the stationery store on the north side of JR Ashiya station and turn right as you go in. You'll find it under some pink and yellow foam picture frames shaped like feet, with toes and everything. I'm sure they'll still be there. Nobody in their right mind would buy them.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A day out

On Saturday night the Internet stopped working. It was terrible. I had withdrawal symptoms yesterday morning when it still wasn't working and I couldn't check my email, but we were going to Nara for the day so the cable guy couldn't come till evening.

We had a lovely day out, even if it was occasionally a little strange. The Man tells me that whenever he goes somewhere by himself everything is normal, but whenever I come too, strange stuff happens. I don't think it's really my fault, though.

Yesterday morning we got to the train station and the trains were delayed. When one finally came it was quite crowded, and we had to stand. Everything seemed normal until a voice said:

"Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen Arima Onsen."

At first I thought it was an announcement, and that the conductor had gone mad and forgotten where he was, but it turned out to be a man sitting behind us. He was reading his newspaper out loud. "Arima Onsen" was, it turned out, the beginning of a story about something that happened at Arima Onsen. He then went on to the first part of the story, similarly repeating every phrase. It was very good for my Japanese, especially because he enunciated so clearly. He had a good voice, but I think we were the only people on the train who really appreciated his efforts. We grinned at each other, and listened. Everybody else looked carefully blank.

I knew what The Man was thinking. It was my fault.

In Nara we visited a shrine.

The shrine had a cow. The cow's nose was shiny because touching it is supposed to bring a good harvest.

There were also bantams.

I don't know what the bantams symbolize. Perhaps they just symbolize themselves. They are fed well, and wander around clucking and crowing a lot. It's all very friendly. There is rather a high proportion of roosters, though, so it's possible the hens find it a little TOO friendly. The roosters are wonderfully colourful, though.

Some of the bantams wear fluffy slippers.

I hesitated to put this next photo on the blog. I don't usually put up pictures of people that are too identifiable, in case they don't like it. But it's a lovely picture of the priest, so I hope that if by some chance he sees this he will be flattered.

The woman was not begging him for something, although that's how it looks. They were talking across the courtyard, and she just happened to step into the frame, gesturing, as I took the picture. I thought of cutting her out of the picture, but then it looked all wrong, somehow.

At a coffee shop later we were the only customers at first, so it was relaxing and quiet. But very soon a rather strange woman came in and proceeded to talk in a foghorn voice, endlessly, to the owners of the coffee shop. Every trivial thought in her head came out. While the owners were polite it was easy to see they were very, very much hoping that she would just stop. She didn't. And she kept looking at me while she was talking, so I carefully tried NOT to look at her. It was hard, though. She was sitting directly opposite me, behind The Man, and had a penetrating voice. The Man kept grinning and I could see what he was thinking. The woman was my fault.

But despite the occasional weirdness we had a lovely day out, and it ended better than it started, too, because after we got home the cable guy came and plugged the Internet back in.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

They will fly around and laugh

I found a wonderful story about keas on GoogleNews New Zealand. Apparently there is going to be a classic car rally in Mt Cook, and the organizers have hired the local karate club members to protect the valuable cars from keas. (For the non-Kiwis reading, keas are New Zealand alpine parrots, which enjoy destroying cars.)

A Department of Conservation ranger said he didn't think the karate club members would be very effective, because the keas would be able to avoid them.

"They will fly around and laugh," he said.

He said the keas would move from one end of the village to the other, easily eluding the car bodyguards.

"I think it's a huge joke."

Apart from relocating the birds, there was no way of stopping them, he said.

"They don't like being squirted with water pistols, so that's quite a good way to deter them - just momentarily."

I thought this was a great story. I like the idea of karate club members running around squirting water pistols, and keas flying around and laughing.

But then I looked up some more about the kea, and found that the Parrot Society of New Zealand has this article on their website, which contains some information about keeping keas in captivity. They need to be entertained, apparently, and after suggesting an entertainment area for the birds, the article adds this:

A further method of entertaining the Kea (or its owner) is to spray them with the garden hose - they love it.

This made me go HMMMMM, and wonder: Could this be why the DoC ranger is so sure they will fly around and laugh?

Friday, February 03, 2006


I took the syllabi in today for my classes next year. On my way home I noticed that there were no birds in the river AT ALL. The coypu was not there either. I wonder where they all went?

A little further along the way home there were dozens of children all over the road. School had just finished for the day and they were all over the place. Some were in groups, chatting. Others were playing boisterously all over the road. Some of the boys were mock-fighting, and a few children were walking alone, dreaming.

I watched the solitary ones. What were they thinking, I wondered? What were they dreaming? I really have no idea what children dream about. Even when I was a child I had no idea what other children were thinking. I knew I was different, because I was, and whatever went on in their heads was a mystery to me. I didn't like being different, but it was forced upon me by the upbringing I had. I wanted to be normal but at the same time I knew (because I'd been told) that other people were bad. Only we were good. There was us, the good people, and there was the rest of the world, the bad people. Those people watched TV and read novels and magazines and listened to the radio, and went to the movies and did other evil things like that. They went to the beach on Sundays! They wouldn't go to heaven. We would. I didn't think I wanted to go to hell, but I wondered what their lives were like. I really didn't know.

But children know when something is not quite right, even when their thoughts are being policed so severely they don't allow it into consciousness. To even dare think that maybe there was a life for me outside of our way of living was not possible. On the other hand, I could, and did, play a lot of 'what if?' games inside my head. These 'what if?' scenarios were based on things I'd read, which wasn't a lot, but my reading fed my fantasies rather more than my parents and elders could have imagined. That was because most of what I read had to do with wars and disasters.

While most novels were banned (aside from a few approved for study at school), non-fiction was allowed, or at least some non-fiction was, and since my father was deeply interested (somewhat quietly, just in case) in history, we had quite a few books about various wars and disasters. These were all non-fiction, of course, but a lot of them were of the type that is unfashionable these days, being rather one-sided good vs evil hagiographies about Great Men, or at least about heroes. They were stories of heroic resistance against terrible odds, of concentration camps, and torture, and so on. There were also adventure stories and books about disasters and earthquakes and things like that. I read them all.

So while my classmates were having their fantasies about ... what? TV? I was fantasizing about the school suddenly exploding with me being the only survivor IN THE WHOLE TOWN, or New Zealand being invaded by Germans or Japanese or godless Communists, or a massive earthquake hitting the ENTIRE COUNTRY, or volcanoes erupting, or wildfires spreading through the land and causing massive disruption, or plagues that only a select group of people (myself included, of course) were mysteriously immune to. My family, in these fantasies, didn't die, exactly (I was a little squeamish about letting that happen) but they did conveniently go missing and their status was unknown. I thought they were probably dead, but I didn't know for sure, and I definitely didn't see it happen. This made it all right. The same also went for all the members of the church, leaving me, the only good person left. I would have to fend for myself in the evil world where I would HAVE to watch TV and listen to the radio and read magazines and novels and go to the movies, for reasons I was a little fuzzy about (I wasn't quite sure what these things entailed) and it would NOT BE MY FAULT. It would be a necessity forced upon me, and I would be reluctant, because I knew how evil it all was. But I would be brave and heroic and would remain pure and good anyway. I would rescue people (even though the poor sinners didn't really deserve it), and I would never, ever, betray anybody under torture, however much TV they had watched, and even though they would be going to hell anyway. I would be good. And free. I would fight fires, rescue people from earthquake-struck buildings, join the resistance, and trick the enemy.

I was particularly interested in tricking the enemy, and most of my fantasies came back to this one. I was an excellent liar, and nobody would disbelieve a small girl, I was sure. I had become good at lying because it helped me to survive at school. Even a child knows that you can't tell a classmate that you can't go to her sixth birthday party because she and her family and friends are evil. You make something up, and lie through your teeth. I learned to do this QUICKLY - other kids, and teachers, were always suddenly asking me to do things I couldn't do or questions I couldn't answer. I lied all the time. So a lot of my fantasies were about tricking the enemy, because I knew I would be good at it. I'd had a lot of practice. I wanted to be a spy. My spying might take me to the beach on Sundays, but it would be all right because it would be in a good cause.

I spent most of the interminable hours in church fantasising. This is probably why, despite having to go to church every evening of the week and several times over the weekend all through my childhood, I can't really tell you the reasons behind all those rules we had to live by even though they were talked about all the time. All those men droning on about their fantasies and making up new rules for us to follow didn't interest me at all. My fantasies, however, were FABULOUS.

What did you fantasize about when you were a child?


Today I asked The Man if he can tell me his secret yet, and he said,


That was pretty annoying. As long as only he knows this secret, I will worry. I don't trust him with it. He might forget what it is. I think he should tell me, just in case. And I have very good reason to worry, because that's what happened last time.

Yes, that's right. Last time, after all the excitement and screaming and so on, he FORGOT WHAT THE SECRET WAS. Not right away, of course, but a little while after the screaming incident he came home one day and told me that it hadn't worked out and therefore he wasn't going to tell me. There was no point, he said.

What did he mean, there was no point? I wanted to explain the foolishness of this argument in detail, but he was still a bit touchy about the interrogation thing so I decided that it probably wasn't tactful right then to tell him how wrong he was. I put it out of my mind for a while. I knew pushing him wouldn't work anyway. He was not in a cooperative state of mind.

But I put it out of my mind a little too thoroughly, and it was a year or so before I remembered it again and asked him. Unfortunately, by then he'd also put it out of his mind, even more efficiently than I had. He didn't even know what I was talking about at first. Then he remembered that he had had a secret, but couldn't remember what it was.


Also today, The Man he told me that a friend asked him what the English word amnesia meant. The Man knew the word but it floated to the top of his brain with only a part of the meaning attached. While he waited for the rest to surface he told his friend, knowingly,

"It's a symptom."

"Oh, I see," said his friend. Then he asked, "But what IS it?"

"Er... it's a kind of mental problem," said The Man, stalling desperately. He KNEW the word, but he couldn't remember. WHAT DID IT MEAN?

I didn't think that forgetting the meaning of amnesia was nearly as funny as he did. In fact it worried me a little. I told him sternly that he was not to forget what this secret was, and that he HAD to tell me at some point, no matter what.

He thought about it.

"But secrets are only interesting because they're secret," he said. "They're like magic. If you know how magic is done it stops being interesting."

I'm not sure that I like this theory. For one thing it implies that his secret is not very interesting, and I hate the idea that I'm getting all excited about something mundane. But also, there is a hint in there - don't you think? - that he isn't planning to tell me at all. If he thinks secrets are only interesting when they're not told, then maybe he'll think it's more fun not to tell me. Or maybe ... is there no secret? Is this some hair-brained scheme to keep me interested in him? Is that what he thinks he's doing?

Driving me mad with curiosity is supposed to be INTERESTING?

I'd be much less annoyed by his theory if it wasn't true.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


The Man told me yesterday that he might have something interesting to tell me about but he can't tell me yet because he isn't sure, so for now it's a secret.

Will he never learn? He knows what happened the last time he did this. He got a horrible surprise.

It went like this.

The Man talks in his sleep. (He also giggles, argues, shouts, and occasionally sings, but that's not relevant to this story.) Sometimes when he talks in his sleep he's quite coherent, and a few days after he'd told me he had a secret last time, he was talking quite sensibly in his sleep one night and I had a brilliant idea. I decided to interrogate him. It seemed a perfectly sensible idea at the time.

So I leaned over him and said, quietly and persuasively,

"What's the secret? Tell me what the secret is..."

His response was mumbled and not very loud. I couldn't hear him clearly, so I put my face closer to his and said it again, very, very quietly so as not to wake him up:

"Come on, tell me your secret. It's all right. You can tell me. What's it all about, eh?"

I leaned over him and stared very closely at his face, concentrating so I wouldn't miss anything. But then suddenly, shockingly, he woke up. My face was only a few centimetres from his and he stared straight into my eyes with an expression of utter terror and screamed. VERY LOUDLY. This caused me to scream, too, and the next thing we were both sitting up in bed, staring at each other and screaming and screaming and screaming. It was altogether a horrifying experience. One minute he was lying there mumbling peacefully and the next he was bellowing in my face. It was ELECTRIFYING.

Eventually we stopped screaming, and he clutched his chest and shouted,

"WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU DOING?" and I shouted back,

"NOTHING!" which was not true at all, but I didn't want to admit that I'd been interrogating him, especially since it hadn't worked. But I couldn't think of a good excuse to be leaning over him with my face so close and staring at him, so eventually I confessed.

It took him a few days to see the funny side.

I reminded him of this today, hoping the awful memory would prompt him to tell me his secret. I mean, who wants to go through that again? It didn't work, though. I guess he must have realized that I'm just as reluctant to repeat the experience as he is.

I'll just have to wait.