Time to Replace the Chapel window?  

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

chapel_windowProbably seemed like a good design at the time . . . . 

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Relaxation and reflection  

Friday, 22 January 2010

I am sitting in the rather agreeable bar of the George Hotel in Rye. I haven’t been here for 15 years at least. In fact the last recollection I have of this place was coming here with my father, so that must be over 15 years ago.

Needless to say its changed quite a bit since then. Not least in its selection of beers; hello lovely Leffe !

It sure has changed a lot since the last time I was here. The world has changed a lot; I have changed a lot. It’s strange coming back to a town that holds so many bad memories. Even though the faces and the scenery might have changed, this is still a place I associate with the worst period in my life. There are ghosts here that no stylish makeovers can ever truly exorcise and no matter how tasteful or up-market places like the George become, there will always be a grey pall of gloom hanging over this town as far as I’m concerned.

I will forever associate Rye with failure; once upon a time, your humble scribe had a proper job working for a proper company, with all the benefits that entailed: Big house, expensive car, high disposable income etc. Life was stressful, and sometimes difficult, but generally good. For a while. Then it all started to unravel. First, a messy and very destructive divorce. Next, within 12 months, my company went bust. And, after struggling to find work for many months, so did I. I lost everything. I ended up here in Rye. Washed out and with my self-esteem in total tatters. For a while, I lost the plot here – something that’s very easy to do in a town that consists almost entirely of alcoholic losers. I existed here a few months before my instincts for self-preservation kicked-in and I realised I had to get out and start rebuilding a life again. The rest, as they say, is history. But even though life now is good – in every respect far better than before the “crash” - I can’t come back here without feeling tainted and depressed by the bitter curse of those dark few months. Regret for the bad decisions I made; Hatred for the losers and wasters that beguiled me into wasting so much precious time and resources following the wrong path. It’s not Rye’s fault, of course. The blame lies entirely at my feet. I should have been stronger. But Rye rubs my face in my own failure every time I come here and I still have a hard time dealing with my own fragility in this regard.

15 years ago, The George Hotel was once quite the den of iniquity for the local lushes, all of whom were banished when the walls were knocked down and the designers bought in to create the George as it exists today. Maybe I should do likewise with my soul: take the time to properly demolish and refurbish the dark corners that still lurk in my psyche from those black days. Perhaps with the right lighting, those dark corners will turn out to have been not so dark and dingy after all.

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Tokyo Dome Matsuri – a treat for the senses  

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Apologies for the delay in writing some words to go with the picture shown here. While it is very easy to upload pics directly to this blog – especially with my wonderful new phone – writing the copy to go with it takes a bit longer.

Anyway – I can finally reveal that the picture was taken at this weekend’s Tokyo Dome Matsuri, that took place at, er, the Tokyo Dome. In Tokyo.

What’s a Matsuri I hear you ask? Good question.

All regions of Japan, and often individual districts and city wards, have their own matsuri – a local festival to mark the passage of the year. Every matsuri has its own traditions, often hundreds of years old. Likewise, every region of Japan has its own epicurean specialities – food, drink, arts and crafts. Some bright spark thought it might be a good idea to weave this whole cultural tapestry together into a single event and so the Tokyo Dome Matsuri was born. Basically, it’s a 4 day festival of Japanese folk traditions combined with an exhibition of regional food and drink from all over the country. In short -  a brilliantly vivid and intense slice of Nihon no bunka – Japanese culture.

This weekend was my last weekend in Japan for a while as I am headed back to the UK this week on business. Consequently, Big M and I wanted to do something a bit different. We’d heard about the matsuri from our friends A and Y, and we headed over to Suidobashi almost on the spur of the moment. Boy, what a fun afternoon.

2010-01-09 16.48.52

The first think that struck us was – it’s massive! When we arrived, there was a folk dance in full swing in the main arena. Behind that were crammed hundred of stalls selling every imaginable kind of produce.

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From Hokkaido we saw stalls selling kani – snow crabs that can grow to huge dimensions. These are small ones! 2010-01-09 17.07.20


Also from Hokkaido was ice cream, cheese and other dairy products. From Kyushu we saw dried fruits and wonderful cakes and pastries. We bought some spices and feasted on fantastic yakisoba and donburi dishes from all over the place.

Last but not least, was the local beer. It’s not often you get to drink anything but the mass produced stuff like Kirin or Asahi. But some of the “real beers” being produced in Japan are as good as anything you’ll find anywhere in Europe. I am resolved to try and track down a few of these breweries upon my return in a few weeks.

So, a fantastic day and some really nice memories to keep my spirits up over the next couple of weeks. To say I am not looking forward to returning to the UK would be a considerable understatement. If it wasn’t for the weather I think I could tolerate the prospect, but after such a hellish experience in the snow last year, the prospect of a re-run is filling me with dread. My brother in law joked that his friends refer to him as “the banana” – yellow on the outside but white on the inside. By the same reckoning, I think my nickname should be “Tamago” (Egg).

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A decade of shame  

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

I personally believe that politics, like religion, should be ones own affair. Consequently, I made a conscious decision some time ago to keep whatever frustration and anger I felt about the present UK administration out of this blog. However, as we enter a new decade – and particularly as we enter what will be an election year – I feel it is worth reflecting on the record of this government in office. The article below was published in the Telegraph.


All governments get into scrapes, make mistakes, let people down – that’s the nature of politics. But it’s hard to think of any government in recent memory that has behaved quite so shamefully, quite so frequently, as this one. At the turn of the decade, here’s a reminder of just how low Labour has stooped.

1. Tony Blair led the country to war on the basis of a lie – the 45-minute dossier was a disgraceful manipulation of some very sketchy intelligence. More than 200 soldiers have been killed, a similar number grievously wounded, while tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have lost their lives.

2. The suicide of Dr David Kelly after he had been exposed by Downing Street as the source of leaks to the BBC about the soundness of weapons intelligence (see above). The most nauseating moment in this episode came courtesy of Alastair  Campbell, an unelected Labour functionary, who summoned a press conference to crow over the findings of the Hutton inquiry into Kelly’s death which inexplicably decided it was all the BBC’s fault.

3. Tony Blair’s warmongering extended beyond Iraq – there was Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan – but a common theme was that British forces were routinely expected to put their lives on the line with inadequate kit and equipment. Much of the responsibility for that lies with Gordon Brown who, as Chancellor,  just did not “get” the military.

4. Brown’s uncontested accession to the premiership – after years spent undermining Blair – revealed just how rotten Labour had become. This was more akin to the Politburo than a modern democratic party. The one consolation is that it has proved an unmitigated disaster for Labour.

5. While Chancellor, Brown perfected a whole armoury of tricks to obscure what he was actually doing – double and triple counting, endless re-announcements of the same policy, stealth taxes by the score. So intent was he on his smoke and mirrors games that he seemed not to notice he was sending the economy down the tubes.

6. Bernie Ecclestone’s £1 million donation to Labour was an early indicator that Labour’s moral compass was non-existent and that Blair’s claim to be a “pretty straight kind of guy” was to be taken with a sackful of salt.

7. Parliament under Labour has been utterly marginalised. Both Blair and Brown have treated the Commons with contempt and we now have the weakest (as well as most dishonest) legislature in memory.

8. Labour’s failure even to attempt to control immigration has led to profound changes in this country that people did not want. Yet any attempt to debate the issue was branded racist by Labour – until it finally dawned on them (far too late) that their own supporters were furious about the changing nature of their communities.

9. A spending binge without precedent in this country’s history has delivered the most paltry improvements in the public services. A great opportunity to modernise Britain has simply been frittered away.

10. Labour’s Big Brother intrusiveness into all aspects of our lives is without precedent outside communist or fascist regimes. A government that has trumpeted its commitment to human rights has systematically eroded them.

To this list, we could also add the explosion of violent crime; the destruction of the education system; the miring of enterprise and initiative in miles of red tape; the traitorous signing-away of British sovereignty to the EU; 3000 new criminal offences created with the intention of criminalising decent honest people, while ignoring the activities of the true criminal underclass; fostering the parasitic benefits culture; presiding over the breakup of the normal family values; ….the list goes on.

Although I pray nightly to see Blair, Brown and Campbell swinging from the gibbet for treason and war crimes, if I have one wish for 2010 it is that Labour are not just swept from power, but humiliated at the polls.

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Warmed by the prayers of others  

Friday, 1 January 2010

Well, here we are at the end of another year and once again I find myself with the family queuing on a cold and clear night to clang the temple bell of our local shrine and offer a prayer for good fortune in 2010. Afterwards, we are treated to a cup of sake and a plastic mug of hot porridgy stuff and a warm by the fire, shown here.

The fire is more than just a bonfire to warm the hands on. It's traditional at the turn of the year to burn all the good luck charms and decorations from last year. So in a very real sense, we have been warming ourselves on the prayers and hopes of our neighbours, and that knowledge is a very comforting thought.

It seems strange to us to burn the very charms that we hoped would bring us our dreams. Yet, it is another reminder that everything has a right time and place to be. Just like in martial arts, energy that is misplaced or left over-long in a static position usually turns out to be a liability rather than a benefit. I guess it's the same with our prayers and dreams. Just like everything else in nature, they have to live, because to stand still is to die.

To anyone reading this, I hope your dreams and prayers thrive and grow strong in 2010, and my best wishes for everything you hope to be.

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