Saturday, 31 December 2016

Reading Challenge: Read only female authors for a year part 3/3

I thought I'd update my list of female authors/books that I've read since I wrote in March.

* - indicates a book I've not read before
  • The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries - Emma Thompson*
  • Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*
  • The Otori Trilogy, The Harsh Cry of the Heron and Heaven's Net is Wide* - Lian Hearn
  • Emma - Jane Austen*
  • Shadow Scale - Rachel Hartman*
  • The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
  • Volumes 1 - 7 of My Love Story!  - a Manga by Kazune Kawahara*
  • Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol*
  • Everyone Worth Knowing - Lauren Weisberger
  • A Book of a Thousand Days - Shannon Hale
  • Uprooted - Naomi Novik*
  • Go Set A Watchman - Harper Lee*
  • The Mediator series (6 books) - Meg Cabot*
  • Eligible - Curtis Sittenfeld*
  • Alice - Christina Henry*
  • Red Queen - Christina Henry*
  • The Girl of Ink and Stars - Kiran Millwood Hargrave* (Urgh! She's the same age as me!)
  • Virgins of Paradise - Barbara Wood
  • The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories - Jane Talbot*

So so far, 24/34 books have been ones I'd either never finished (Heaven's Net is Wide, Emma) or not read before at all.  Well done me.

I'm currently rereading Curse This House by Barbara Wood, but that won't be done by midnight tonight!  I have some new books coming by her, as I couldn't find my copy of Green City in the Sun and when searching for it on Waterstones Marketplace, I saw they had copies of her other books, so I have two of those coming as well. And I have a tonne on my kindle that I bought or got for free that I need to read, including Austen I've not read, Middlemarch and The Cursed Child screenplay.

I've really enjoyed reading only female authors - I've come across some really fun and interesting literature. But I will not mind being a bit more flexible next year - there are a couple by male authors I want to read!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

日本の最後の数日間 - Last few days of Japan

The Last Few Days of Japan

We spent the last few days shopping and trying to spend our hard-saved money. I bought a bunch of rare Moomin plush toys. I regret not buying Too-Ticky and the Groke as well, since I've got some money left over, still!

We bought our limited edition Pikachu couple plush, dressed in traditional Yakuta and kimono. A his and hers Pikachu. Awwh.

We tried our best to spend time eating good food and just relaxing and visiting places.  We went to a big woodland park in Tokyo, we spent one day completely penned indoors because of a typhoon... that was a bit dull... but we just had some relaxed fun.

Then, on the Thursday, which was 4 days before our flight, in the evening at around 10pm, the cockroach appeared on my bed, freaking Him out a bit.

I was in the bath and he actually came running to tell me there was a roach on my bed. He didn't manage to catch it because by the time he came back with a mug from downstairs, it had scuttled off somewhere.

He was onto airbnb for an alternative place as almost as fast as the cockroach could run.  We booked it and set about packing and tidying and shaking out everything to make sure there were no roach eggs or roaches hiding.

When he was out buying bug bombs and spray, the roach reappeared, making me jump. I managed to get it under a mug. (No squishing! If it's a female, that's the worst thing to do!)

I am not proud of it, but there were lots of shrieks and squeals as I tried to catch it and a lot of shudders and gagging.

I don't mind cockroaches out and about in the wild. Then it's interesting and I don't have to be too close. I DO MIND THEM IN MY ROOM, it would seem. I actually like them less than spiders, in the house. Spiders gross me out no end. As I don't live in Australia, I'm not afraid of them, but I don't like the way they look or move. 8 legs is too many (or too few, since I quite like centipedes and millipedes).

Anyhoo, caught the roach, then He managed to set it free but sprayed it to death.

They're just a part of life, in Japan. It probably came in up the drain in the bathroom. It probably came in because of the typhoon. It was a male, but we weren't too happy about sleeping in the room after that... we cranked the air con up to discourage any others coming out.

The next morning, after buying antiseptic for my toe, we moved out. It was oddly sad and we felt nostalgic - after all, we'd been living there for a month, pretty much.

We moved to a two-bed flat near Ginza, the rich part of Tokyo.

We made the most of our time in Ginza - we ate out the Friday evening, spending a ridiculous £301 on a set meal around Ginyu beef.  It included our drinks and two appetisers and a pudding, but when we did the yen to pound conversion, we were shocked.
So yeah. That's that... we had the money to spend, so it wasn't so bad.

When visiting in Japan, if you have the yen, you have the yen. It's not worth converting to pounds much to justify things, unless you want to tell yourself "it's fine to get that stuffed toy - it's a collectable and only £10..."   We knew that 40,000 yen would be expensive but hadn't tried converting it accurately.

Then the Saturday, we went to Gundam front, to see the life-size model of a Gundam. I'm not a massive franchise but I humour him. We did a bit of window shopping as well.  We went into the Gundam museum and he got to climb into one and put a coat on and sit in a seat... he was happy.

Gundam Front - 27/8/16

Then the next morning, on the Sunday, we cleared out and flew home.

And that was the end of our Japanese adventures.  We were ready to go home, but we have had a great time.  We were very happy to get back to our own hovel and have a computer each to play on and t.v. to watch in English and I got to drive my car for the first time in 4 months (I MISSED IT SO MUCH) and yeah. Lots of conversation fodder for us!

日本の23日目 - Japan day 23

After our week of travel, we kinda mooched about a bit for a day or two, recovering. I thought I had a blood blister, caused by pinching of my toes, but it turns out it was just a scab over a horribly fleshy bit of nail or something. Yeah. Nice.

So with much gauze, tape, plasters and anti-septic, I have to play nurse on myself. Ah well.

Day 23 was awesome. It was our trip to Disney Sea Tokyo!

We only went on three rides, but we had a great time wandering around and queuing... it wasn't a busy day, but for the Journey to the Centre of the Earth, we had to queue for 2 hours. The ride itself lasts about 5 minutes. C'est la vie.  There was much screaming involved - we were both quite tired and lost our nerve a bit. We knew we were going to burst out of the side of the volcano and have a big (read: not that big in reality) drop, and the anticipation got to us, I guess.  Still, it was a good ride - it had flame throwers and weird alien-like gremlin things and darkness and light shows and sound effects.

We also went to Terror Tower, that was fun. I don't know why I didn't expect the ride to be the way it was - I mean, it was kind of obvious from the "how the house got haunted" video and light show.  Hindsight is amazing.

I'm glad I hadn't eaten before that right though - I definitely felt my digestive organs shift as we got dropped. Yep. We didn't scream in that one, just held on quite tight - the people behind us though were going at it full pelt, having their voices projected to the people outside, in the streets far far below.

Disney Sea, despite having "sea" in the name, has no water rides. None. There is a splash area, if you are getting front seats to the shows on the lake, but apart from that, it's literally just because it's on the coast.

(It's actually a total rip off to have Disney Land and Disney Sea as separate parks with separate tickets - they're right next to each other and on the same shuttle train line.)

We also went on the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which wasn't exciting but interesting to go on, for the effects and things. The queue for that was a bit long, too.

Then we went to get pizza from Zambini's just in time for the big show of the evening: Fantasmic.

I'd not seen a proper Disney park show. I wasn't massively eager to see it until I read about it in the leaflet and thought, "cool".  I was so wrong - they're not just fireworks. They're amazing.

It was of course based loosely on Fantasia, with Mickey appearing at the top of a giant sorcerer's hat, in the middle of the bay. The hat was of course projecting images and clips from various films and it was a celebration to all the imagination. (Reminiscent, to the song from Willy Wonka, sung by our dearly departed Gene Wilder)

Then of course, the drama starts: the Evil Queen's mirror appears and the hag manages to magic herself out of the mirror and into the hat, switching places with Mickey. Maleficent and Ursula show up and the Mistresses of Darkness take over!  Then Maleficent turns into the dragon! And Mickey manages to spark fireworks and stuff at her (with his wand) and eventually she is defeated. Not going to lie, both the show and my photos are pretty cool. #ego.

I filmed teeny bits of the show, at points and have sewn them together. I wasn't going to film the whole thing, because I was a bit wary of my camera's propensity to lose large film clips (though that might have been me, as well). I also wanted to get some really cool photos, which you can't really do when taking shots from a film of that size. And cool photos I got!

A great end to the day!   We popped over to Agrabah market to collect an engraved present we'd got for His Sister, nipped into a stationary store where I got some really lovely postcards that could be framed and He got an anniversary (15 years since opening) Nano Block Mickey Mouse.

Then we went home, tired but happy - and determined to return and stay in one of the hotels for a couple of nights, next time!

DisneySea Tokyo - 24/8/16

日本の日18および19 - Japan days 18 and 19

Travelling to and exploring Hiroshima

We left Osaka feeling happy that we'd covered pretty much everything. It's very much a small town with a great nightlife, but not a lot of other things to do. We'll definitely go back for a day or two in the future though, and spent more time in Kyoto.

We were roughly 2 hours from Hiroshima, so we got to our hostel/hotel by 3pm. It was waaaaaaay hot!  So very hot.  We got to the room, whipped on the air con and sat around in our undies for a while, cooling down. You're welcome for the imagery ;)

Hiroshima is mostly made up of 1950s style buildings... the reasons of which don't need elaborating on, really, cause it's obvious.  It's small, contained and home to some really lovely gardens and parks. Pretty much all the transport was conducted using buses or trams.

We got a tram to the town center - a woman saw us looking at the timetables and asked if we wanted help. She then told us which tram to take and even said she was going towards where we were going and would show us the way. So very friendly and nice! Her name was Miyo, if I remember correctly.

There we found an official Shonan Jump store, which was easy to spot, what with the giant Goku statue outside.

Yeah. We like Dragonball in this house. I still think he should have been Kame-hame-ha-ing back at Goku, but never mind.

We found somewhere to eat and then had an early-ish night, ready for the next day ahead!

August 20th - The Peace Park, Memorials and Museum

As I said, there isn't a whole lot to do in Hiroshima, which is really sad, considering that in the 30s it was a center of culture and upcoming commerce. However, things happened to change all that.

We went to the peace park - It was a beautiful day, easily climbing into the high 30s but not too humid. He says it was humid, I say that were just sweating enough to feel as though it was. I really think it was too hot to be humid. Doesn't really matter, I guess.

The "A-bomb Dome" is a landmark in Hiroshima, and the area around it has been turned into a park. The building had been a culture and commerce building, with the dome being specially designed by a Dutch architect, made from blue and green glass. It sounded beautiful. The only pictures of it were in black and white, and everything after is just a shell, so I am just imagining it.

I wasn't too keen on taking photos, really. I have strong feelings about war, WMDs and everything, but there were lots of Japanese tourists there too, taking photos, so I felt a bit less awkward about it. I was a lot quicker about it though - no artsy shots (though the building is very obliging in that respect) for me!

There is the building, left as a reminder. There's a memorial to the Koreans that died (we didn't see that one), one to the residents of Hiroshima and the Children's Peace Memorial. This one was particularly touching - you can read about it in the photos - it was made after the death of a girl suffering from leukemia caused by the radiation and over a thousand schools chipped in to have it made. An amazing feat when you consider there was no social media or JustGive pages and whatnot.

After, we went to the museum that is in the park. It was cheap to get into and emotionally gruelling. They reconstructed part of a street as it looked from inside a building, with the city in flames through the brick window frames. They had horribly realistic wax figures of a mother and two children walking through rubble, arms out in pain and agony as their clothes had melted into their skin, blood and plastic dripping from their fingers. The mother looked shell shocked, the daughter stoic and the little boy, about 10, had his face scrunched up in pain.

There were many artifacts, donated by grieving relatives - the shoe of a girl who'd died and whose body wasn't recovered. The uniforms of the many teens who were only there because they'd been sent in to help demolish some buildings to create a fire path (which was why the casualties were higher that particular day). The step outside the bank, with the shadow of the person who'd been sitting there waiting for it to open.

There was a scale model of the town and the surrounding area, with a red ball hovering over the impact site - the red ball was representative of the bomb 1 second after detonation.  A man was telling his grandchildren about it and how he had lived just beyond the hills the other side of the model. Those houses, beyond the hills, were protected by the blast, pretty much. (Him indoors managed to translate enough of what he was saying to grasp the gist of it.)

I lost my cool/emotional control a bit when reading about the bomb itself. They had all the information about its construction donated by the organisation behind it. They had a life size reconstruction. What got to me was that they were aiming for the hospital.  Absolutely disgusting. There was no tactical advantage - it was purely a aim-for-the-citizens-and-helpless-to-prove-a-point. I know it ended the war. I know that. But I don't think the ends justified the means in this case.

I know that the Japanese were far from clean fighters in warfare and less than civilised towards their captives. But you know what? The West doesn't really have much to stand on, either. Just look at the atrocities they have committed and are still committing in various countries all over the world. Look at Iraq. Look at Syria. Look at what the anti-communist meddlings of the Americans did in Afghanistan. They created their own monster, just because they weren't comfortable with the idea of communism (great in theory, lousy in practice) or the influence of the Soviets. Look at how the way the Americans behaved in Vietnam - the most disgusting war to date. I just feel, quite honestly, that the entire A-bomb saga was a war crime in itself - particularly Nagasaki's. I'm sure that is an unpopular opinion in both America and probably over here, in the UK. Sure, the one aimed at Nagasaki caused less damage and loss of life, but that was pure accident. That was unintended - they misjudged when to drop it and thank goodness it was before the mountain and not after. They knew for sure by then what the bomb was capable of and they still went ahead and ordered a second one. There was absolutely no need for that - I agree 100% with my history teacher there.

I skipped through the photos of people suffering burns and post-radiation effects. I'd seen enough of those on my GCSE course. I knew very well what happened to those poor people and I was feeling emotional as it was. We watched a video of a man reciting a recount of a boy who'd survived the blast and was trying to get home, how he had to help his friend get home - his friend had had the soles of his feet burned/blasted off.  There were artist impressions of it, to help with the imagery.

We signed one of the petitions that the Japanese government is pushing, promoting a complete nuclear disarming of nations by 2020. It's not going to happen, but I signed it anyway. They had a small section around Obama's visit to Hiroshima, too.

Afterwards, we left and headed back in towards town. We went to a famous feudal garden, which was relaxing and beautiful. The feudal lords had this thing about "miniature landscapes" - so in their gardens they'd have lakes or ponds to represent particular areas of the sea or country. They had a mini rice field to pray for bumper crops. They had a large mound in their gardens to represent Fuji. It was extensive and quiet, an odd contrast to the built up area around it. So that is what most of the photos are in the album.  Some really lovely bridges and areas.

We went back to our room to rest a bit, as the heat swelled up my feet a LOT and it made them too big for my shoes (which caused a major in-grown-toe-nail issue later... I'm booking a doctor's appointment for it.) then we bought some food from a local supermarket and ate in our hostel. We were getting ready for our 5-hour journey back to Tokyo the next day!
It was nice, sitting in the communal area, reading my trashy novel (blog post about it here) whilst eating some bento. Just chillin'.

Here are the photos from Hiroshima. A beautiful town, with a lot more to offer. We'll probably go back, to visit the islands just off the coast from it - there are some ryokans we didn't know about, for example.

Hiroshima - 20/8/16

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Book review: 'Eligible' a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

Edit: This was going to be a mini review but I'm on a train for 5 hours and I guess I ended up having more to say than I planned. Sorry.

I had come across this in a "books to read this summer" article months ago and immediately pre-ordered it on the cheap for my kindle.  I am a sucker for P&P fan-fictions (that's all any of the re-writings are) and this one did not disappoint me. - I do not go into these with high expectations, it must be noted.

I've not read the official reviews for this one, though when I put the title and author into google, the headlines tell me that it's been relatively well-received in some circles(Good Reads etc.) and poorly received in others (The Guardian).  So really, I think it's another one of those, "down to the reader to decide" books. I don't think my BFF would enjoy it, for example.

Well, I have decided: It is not the worst version you can read out there.

I have read Mr Darcy's Diary (Maya Slater), Mr Darcy: Vampyr (the incorrigable Amanda Grange) and the oddly-better-on-screen, Death Comes to Pemberley (P.D James). I started Pride and Prejudice: Zombies but just... no. No. It's not my thing. I think I've read another, but right this second, I can't think of it.

This one is different to the others in that a) it's not a prequel or sequen and b) it 100% is set outside of Regency England: the majority of the story takes place in Cincinatti, Ohio. Oh, yes.

I have not read Sittenfeld's other books, and I can't say for sure that I ever will, however this is the general impression I got of her, from the book:  Huge P&P fan having fun writing and doing her best to not deviate too far from the original plot, though she had to give up part way through when certain elements simply did not work in our century.

And that is fine. I am not going to slate her - hell, she's done better than I have at writing a fan-fic that actually ends!  That said, it's not without many faults, though that doesn't mean it has to distract from reading it when you're on the train for 5 hours, say.

So anyway, the book review!


It retains the class girl meets boy, each displeased with the other but eventually the more they get to know each other, the more they are drawn together and realise each was as pig-headed as the other and get hitched. They have the snobby meddling friends, the crass family background, the classist issues, gender issues and the social commentary of contempory lifestyles.

Pretty much Jane Austen in principal - that, apart from the characterisation, is where I draw the line at comparisons. I do not think that it is fair to compare the work to Austen's when it is not directly related or tagged on to the original in the way that Mr Darcy's Diary (Wrong year historically and characterisation is off), Mr Darcy: Vampyre (Ignored writing style completely but hey it's a fantasy fic) and Death Comes to Pemberley (P.D. James tried really hard to maintain Austen's style while incorporating her own Mystery genre and did a surprisingly good job)are, being sequels or prequels.  This is a modern reworking and does not need to have Austenisms in it.  That said, every so often, Sittenfeld threw in reference to "good breeding" and loads of little Easter Eggs via character names and fictional places.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ Spoilers begin here ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~

Characterisation - Bennets, then Bingleys, Georgiana D, Lady Catherine, Mr Collins and Charlotte Lucas, Mr Wickham and then Mr Darcy

Elizabeth "Liz" Bennet"
Do not expect to like her as a person in the way one did when reading P&P.  She comes off pretty badly in this - not that I hated her by the end, but I remember thinking quite a few times that I disliked her. She is not without blame though - not when you compare her to the rest of her family and the stuff she has to deal with emotionally and intellectually.  I rather enjoyed her relationship with this version's Wickham, "Jasper Wick".  I felt that in the modern setting, it was actually spot on - he is  that sort of flakey pillock and even P.D James, in Death Comes to Pemberley extended his characterisation to be a real flake and philanderer.  More on him later.

Liz Bennet is a successful writer for a magazine. At 38 she is certain she does not want children but does wish she were married to Wick - a man who captured her affection years before but had been stringing her along. It's painful but true and not actually unlike their intial flirtatious relationship in the original.   She does however, in this version, not stand up to the original Elizabeth. She is almost as coarse as her sisters. She is judgemental and she is actually quite bitchy.  She does look after her family though and will do her duty as far as being a sister and daughter goes. She is independent and she does love her sister Jane very much and get on with her father, but other than that - she doesn't really come across the same.

She is pretty dislikable at many points in the story.  Although there are moments when she is trying to communicate without sarcasm and "wit" with her sisters, the only differentiation in dialogue the Bennets all have are that Lydia and Kitty's language and humour is less politically correct and more crass and Jane's dialogue is simply calmer and less witty.

Although she does her best to read up on Transgender issues upon Lydia's elopement to Ham, (The concentrated nice side of Wickham's original characterisation) Liz does very little to confront her youngest siblings's language and attitudes before that, particularly when they are being unkind to Mary. In fact, she passively joins in.

She does have her good points though - she realises when she has been wrong and we do get to more openly explore the workings of someone who regrets everything she has said in the past or the instant cringe we get when something we think comes out way differently in our mouths - we don't really get to see much of that in the original until Elizabeth reads the letter from Mr Darcy.

Jane Bennet

I rather enjoyed the idea of Jane being a single, New York-living Yoga instructor.  I think that is an update that works. She is still quiet, she is still pretty and she still falls in love with Mr Bingley. Since money and social backgrounds aren't particularly huge barriers these days, the story needed a bit of a boost with the whole "Bingley goes away for months and then re-enters to propose" plotline. Again, given the way things are now, it worked: Jane, pushing 40, was desperate to be a mother, so she took things into her own hands (You go, girl!) and started IUI treatment. Unfortunately, her meeting Bingley was all terrible timing and when it comes out that she's pregnant, it had been going on a little too long for him not to be shocked and hurt that she hadn't mentioned she'd been receieving monthly dosages of anonymous sperm donations.

She is as quiet, pensive and - is passive the right word? - as the original Miss Bennet.  She's also pretty much the only likeable character in the family.  Except maybe Kitty - I couldn't help but like her, which is odd, since I disliked her in the original and film adaptations. Hm.

Lydia and Kitty Bennet

They are 25 and 26 respectively and a lot is made of their comparative youngness to Liz and Jane, who are 38 and 39.  Lydia is young and blonde and vivacious, though bad-manners. Kitty pretty much follows in her footsteps.  They are Crossfit and Paleo-diet addicts and do naff all to earn a living or make their own way in the world.  They are fashionable moochers.  Pretty much the best way to explain away two girls over 22 still living with their parents.

They are always using base humour and language and picking on people who do not match their way of living, particularly their older sister Mary.  They were unkind and gossipy in the original but not to that extent.

Kitty is slightly less bad than Lydia, but as the follower, she doesn't say or do anything to stop her.

Lydia remains a kept woman her whole life, eloping with her CrossFit's gym owner, Hamilton "Ham" Ryan.  Not that scandelous. Except it's very established by that point that Mr and particularly Mrs Bennet are Republicans and homophobic and racist. The "scandal" is that Ham comes out to them as ftm transsexual, which Mrs Bennet simply can not cope with, so they elope to Chicago.

Kitty on the other hand demonstrates a skill and almost passion for nail art - something that Liz suggests she create a career out of.  When forced to live independently, Kitty actually moves in with Mary and towards the end of the story, Liz receives an email from Kitty that indicates she has applied for a cosmetologist course.  In the original, post-Lydia's marriage, Kitty is shown to mature more when spending time with Maria Lucas, but not much else - this allows Kitty that same level of maturity gain.

Mary Bennet

A loner, a "scholar" - she has several degrees online and is working towards a Masters in Psychology - and a bit of a bitch, though I suspect it's entirely down to the fact that her whole family is horrendous. She is just as lazy and can be just as crude as her younger sisters,  feeling the need neither to leave the nest, nor contribute towards its upkeep.  Liz muses that Mary is "proof that someone can be ugly and unpleasant" - well, duh. Not particularly a deep nor stellar observation and I don't feel it's one that she would have made in the original.

Mary puts up with being asked whether she is a lesbian throughout the book, with abuse hurled at her by Lydia a lot. Her mother is not exactly a great parent and she doesn't really interract with her father much. She is apparently a feminist - constantly disapproving of some activity or other on the grounds that it's degrading to women or something - and is very anti-social.   She has some air of mystery though - she has a standing engagement every Tuesday evening, and nobody knows where she goes or what she does.

It later transpires she's part of a bowling league.  There is also a random post-chapter which explains that Mary has tried relationships at university but didn't much care for them. She's happier "looking after herself" and grooming herself to meet "society's basic standards". She doesn't feel the need to make others happy or to have others make her happy. All she wants is to bowl once a week and she loves it.  Pretty much it.

She does however occasionally back Liz up as a voice of reason - not necessarily to help Liz, but because she can see more clearly than her self-absorbed sisters and mother.

Mr Fred Bennet and Mrs Sally Bennet 

The reason that Liz and Jane are back in Cincinatti in order to meet Darcy and Bingley at all is that Fred has had a heart attack and required an operation. This is the foundation of their monetary troubles as nobody but Liz and Jane had health insurance - which works well in modern America.

They live in a house build in the early 1900s, that has been passed down. They belong to a social club. His career was simply moving the family money around and making money out of money - though he clearly did a bad job of it in the end. It does not help that Sally is a shopaholic, to the point that she has dozens of unopened mail order boxes of houseware that nobody really needed. "I love a good bargain".

As a married couple, the dynamics are the same as the originals - she is a self-centred, social-climbing drama queen and he is fed up with her and their younger daughters' shenanigans.

He has many similar-style one-liners and his rapport with Liz is similar - though it is Liz who has to give him the kick up the backside he needs to sell the house in order to pay for his bills.

Sally is desperate to have at least one of her daughters married and is really backward thinking. She is small-minded, which is reflective of quite a lot of middle and upper class republicans of a certain age. She is not racist enough to call a POC something horrendous to their face, but she doesn't socialise with them, only hires them, and even then it's uncomfortable for her. She is uncomfortable around LGBT issues, referring to Jane's gay friends as "Those Ladies" and the only way for her to get her head around Ham's gender reassignment was to consider it as him having a "birth defect" which was corrected, like a cleft palate.  (At least one can follow the logic, I suppose)

The reason Liz and Jane spend so much time at their parental home post-Fred's operation is that Sally has a "important luncheon" that she is hosting and has no time to look after her husband.

Both parents are irresponsible and selfish in their own way - ignoring doctor's advice and allowing their house to get into a state of disrepair, making it more difficult to sell for a decent sum of money.

There are funny moments with these characters, particuarly in their interactions with each other or other members of the family, but there is less fondness for them and they feel less silly than obnoxious than the original couple.

Chip Bingley

A bit of a Fop but nice enough - he's a good looking single man, made famous by his sister suggesting he go onto the reality show, "Eligible".  He is a trained doctor that moves to Cincinatti to work at the E.R.  They meet through his boss, the Bennet's friend, Mr Lucas,

He and Jane hit it off almost immediately.

He's easily flapped though - when it comes out that Jane is pregnant (her mysterious collapse/illness in the original was a fever) of course, his typical male reaction is shock and horror that she is pregnant by someone else. He's easily persuaded to then go back to LA for an "Eligible" reunion shoot, quitting his job at the E.R and running away from the love of his life.

When he comes back though, he explains it was his uncertainty at wanting to be a practising doctor that was clouding his judgement towards her and once in LA he realised what a huge mistake he'd made.  He tells the producer about Jane and then she suggests that he and Jane marry in an Eligible special - the surreal part of the book, really, because it happens. Yes. Jane Bennet gets married on t.v. And it's not live.  A good narrative about the crap that goes on behind the scenes of reality shows though - how not-quite-scripted-but-certainly-cultivated a lot of interactions and relationships are. No wonder they don't turn out well in real life!

Oh well, they get married and he's happy to be the father of Adelaide, so that's nice, innit?

Caroline Bingley

Still a bitch in love with Darcy. Can't stand Liz. Can't stand her family. Doesn't mind Jane but wishes that it hadn't happened.

Not much updating done, tbh.

Georgiana Darcy

She is still younger and is a big fan of Liz - she reads the magazine she works for.  She never interracts with Wickham, so that storyline doesn't really exist. Instead, she is anorexic and is a worry for Darcy as she's been to many clinics around the country.  Her relationship with Liz is quite sweet though.

Kathy De Bourgh

A leading feminist that Liz gets to interview for her article. Really nice, actually, and says some of the nicest, wisest things in the book. An actual darling and very cool. Not related to Darcy in any way.

Cousin Willie and Charlotte Lucas

Mr Collins turns into an awkward, probably autistic, tech genius who is able to own his own place in the Silicone Valley. He visits and it's quite clear that he likes Liz as she politely puts up with his long monologues and takes him out and about as a tour guide and isn't unkind to him generally.
He is still seen as undesirable, and though only a step-cousin, this is one of the more clearly articulateable reasons that Liz gives for not wishing to marry him.

Charlotte is her old school friend, also unmarried and slightly overweight. She reaches out to Willie after Liz rebuffs him and after some online talking and phone calls, up sticks and moves out to California for him, which Liz can't quite understand.  In this way, her characterisation is similar to the original - she feels her clock ticking and sees that her chances with Willie are as good as with anybody else's.  After initial upset, which requires Liz to visit her and prescribe ear plugs (Willie snores horrendously), she decides that she wants to make their relationship work and the last we hear of her is Liz overhearing them having sex as she hurries off to deal with the Lydia scandal.

Jasper Wick

Charming, good looking and seems to care about Liz - he wants her in his life, anyway.  It is unfortunately not a healthy relationship - he is reliant on her for emotional reasons. She is his confidant, professional peer and advisor, relationship advisor and in all respects best friend.  She however wants something more - she loves him and although he frequently, in the past and present, tells her that he should really be with her, he never actually does it. He instead marries a woman and has a child, only to find that their relationship has run its course. Unfortunately, his grandmother-in-law would disown them if they divorced (she's Catholic), so they are having an open marriage. Which allows him to have sex with Liz, but without committing to her fully.

At first, she's alright with this, but when it transpires that he's also been sleeping with others (which comes after a disasterous meal with him and Jane, where she sees he can be an arse) and she finds out the real reason he was kicked out of Stanford, she finally realises that he is an absolute knob-end.

I really liked this version of Wickham, actually. I - and I don't know how many agree with me - believe genuinely that in the original, he was one of those who would flatter an attractive person's ego and make "connections" with them, all the time, only to disappear with someone slightly better comes along (like Miss King) and in the 21st Century that would definitely make him a Prig.

In the original, he ends up with Lydia (still not sure how or why) but I felt that Sittenfeld decided to split the Good and Bad Parts of Wickham and distill them into the characters of Jasper Wick and Ham Ryan.  Ham is a genuinely nice dude who also gets on very well with Liz and definitely treats Lydia better than Wickham would have done in the original - it's nice to think the original Wickham did have feelings for Lydia enough to marry her despite her lack of money... I guess.

I did, upon going through the Ham and Lydia storyline, keep expecting her to run off or sleep with Jasper - afterall, he visists Cincinatti, so it could have happened. I still feel that would hve sufficed as a catalyst for Liz's disillusion, but then I guess there wouldn't have been a scandal for Darcy to step in to help with.

Fitzwilliam Darcy

So named after some paternal great great great grandparent, Darcy is the only one bearing his full original name - though Sittenfeld decided his middle name should be Cornelius, which I think is hilarious.

He is seen by Liz as being stuck up and overheard slagging off Cincinatti women to Bingley at their first social gathering. It's all pretty play-by-play with the book.  Except that Liz is waaaaaaaay ruder and worse behaved towards him than in the original.

It all leads up to them having hate sex after she breaks up with Jasper Wick. For her, it's rebound sex and for him it's probably just nice to get an offer. They hook up a few times when they meet while running.  He is the first person she is able to confide to and during their run, they do their deeper-level chat and info sharing before heading back to his for sex (no cuddling allowed with hate sex).

When she is due to go back to NY, he realises he kinda loves her and goes to tell her - insulting her in a cringy way, which it turns out was his way of off-setting the dorky "I love you" feels he was feeling and went too far the wrong direction.  She is absolutely horrendous back, not just angry and on point as in the original.

They meet again at his ridiculous mansion in California, on Pemberley road, number 1896 or whatever year P&P is supposedly set!  Smooth, Sittenfeld, smooth.

There, he has that personality transplant - if you recall in the original, when she turns up at Pemberley, he is really nice and gracious and shows her and her aunt around.

In this case, it's her and Charlotte curiosity stalking him and then him happening to be there. He invites them over for dinner - with Willie and his parents as well.  They go round for a BBQ the next day and they play croquet.

Caroline is of course there and she is vile as usual.  Liz meets Georgie and they have a fine time. There is a moment in the kitchen that gets interrupted where Darcy is about to tell her that after she left town, he... we don't know what but we can speculate that he missed her and that life was rubbish for him.

They agree to meet for breakfast, but she has to cancel when they get there because of Lydia's elopement and her parents freaking out, which she is sure killed it for him as he acts pissy.

It is only after some misunderstanding and Caroline's bitchy meddling at Chip and Jane's wedding that Liz finally tells him how she feels and then proposes to him. Because why not? Everything else has been super progressive so far.

Darcy is described as being tall, handsome and self-important and snobby. He is a neurosurgeon and he isn't sure how to handle Liz's humour and direct way of speaking - a lot of which is just verbal diarrhea in my opinion.

His characterisation was pretty basic, but he is the truest represenation of the original characters in the book.  Hard to go wrong there, though, I guess.

So how was the book in general?

Honestly, it's not a work of art - the dialogue is pretty monotonous and can be stilted. My teacher-brain kicked into gear at times. There was a lot of "she said"s in there...  I know that the way we teach children to write is to expand their vocab and nobody actually writes books using synonyms instead of said all the time, but maybe I was being picky because of the format the kindle used. Made the "said"s too close together.

The plot is the classic "Will they, won't they?" and I was actually invested at points - it was quite clear when Sittenfeld was setting the groundwork to show that Liz and Darcy were compatible at all, perhaps because before then she hadn't really managed.  What I did like was how relatable their relationships were (Not so much the familial) - they were sex positive, had had previous relationships.. it was just that they weren't married, which is more of an institutional aim rather than a live or die situation (in its loosest terms) in Regency England.

The story telling, even if the plot is a bit odd at times, is quite witty and I did feel she was handling the idea of inverted snobbery as well as elitism quite well. Liz was quite definitely a snob. A pretty vile one, at that. Perhaps the horrible way they all treat each other is part of the commentary on the way people are these days. Who knows?  But there is still a stigma attached to women that don't marry or marry late, to women who have children late or don't want them at all and that is addressed subtly. It's great that Darcy and Liz don't want children and that it's mutual - that he was the one person she felt she could honestly tell. It was nice to read about someone who enjoyed children and babies but was relieved to give said children and babies back. I know more than one person who is not maternal in anyway and everytime it comes up regails me with some stupid comment they'd been told, all of which Liz mentions in the book.

The Bennets were characteratures of the crass socialite rich that we read about in the mags, or at least, that's how I was interpreting it.  They enjoy being rich and not having to do much and as a result are less useful to society than the people they are prejudiced against. They are usually the ones with poor money management and end up in financial trouble, not knowing how to go without or making real sacrifices in order to secure their futures. It took Jane and Liz (mostly Liz) to actively sort things out and think practically for them.

I'd probably end up reading it again - it was easy to read and I did have a few LOL moments because of phrases used or things that happened.  Pretty much, this book is a bit of a trash read, but it was enjoyable enough for me to get through it.

The last parts with Jane and Chip's wedding was bizarre, but hey, maybe if they'd had reality t.v. back then, Austen would have chosen it too!.... or not.

I rate this book a 3 out of 5 - Would read again  but not necessarily recommend it to die-hard fans or purists!

(Separate it from the original and it's not quite as bad, just another bizarre summer read)

Friday, 19 August 2016

日本の日16および17 - Japan days 16 and 17

Day 16:  Travelling to and enjoying Osaka nightlife

We had a far more leisurely morning to travel to Osaka from Kyoto, as it was only 45 minutes away by the Shinkensen and our train was at 12.

We packed up and went off.  Osaka is really nice - second largest city and it proclaims itself as "the City that never sleeps".  It was not as loud or vibrant as areas of Tokyo but it was certainly more of a short-stay party town. There were bars everywhere, a more open clubbing scene and an entire district devoted to street food and gastro-dining. (Always a win for us - it's amazing that I've actually lost some weight here)

We found our hostel which was a really friendly, relaxed place. Downstairs served as a bar/cafe with a hipster vibe to it and upstairs had two sets of male and female only dorms with a couple of co-ed twin rooms, one of which we'd been lucky enough to book when our airbnb place fell through (laws restricted the minimum number of days one can let out to a patron).

It was very basic but I liked it much better than the flat in Kyoto - after all, it didn't smell of sewage!

We went to the aquarium, which is on the edge of the sea and is built around an enormous tank - they take the tunnel idea and really expand it so that you are going deeper into sea life. They also have mini exhibits of habitats of various places in the world, so there is the odd capybara and macaw there, too.

We paid about the same as one would for the London Aquarium and got SO MUCH MORE.
Darn it, there was a whale shark, white-sided pacific dolphins, three kinds of penguin, two types of otter and a hella lot of deep sea jellyfish. Also a giant salamander.   And it was huge.  So. Yeah. Way better value in my opinion.

Here is what we saw at the aquarium.  If you click here, you can see the video I got of one of the cool jellyfish swimming and here for the sea otter's adorable post-feed scratch and wash (SO CUTE)!

Osaka aquarium- 17.8.16

We had bought combined tickets, so we went onto the giant ferris wheel - which is pretty much the same as the London eye but less as though it was trying to look cool and modern. That was quite nice - we saw the sun set over the river and the lights come on downtown.

Then we made our way over to Dotonbori, which is the district where people go to eat all the streetfood they can. Unfortunately, we'd given in to our late-lunch hunger at the aquarium, so we didn't actually end up eating anything there - there were too many people and places to choose from anyway.

We ended up down some side streets and found a bar run by an American dude and an English girl that allowed patrons to play video games on a variety of consoles. While we drank our drinks, we played Dr Mario on a famcom.

Then we moved on and found a little bar which was more like a modern pub in Britain, run by foreign people. There I ordered a mojito, which the barman was unsure about - he even asked me whether I knew what was going to happen next!  Turned out, it was only his second night working there. By the end of the evening, we'd ordered enough drinks for him to have a vague idea of what went into them (other staff made them while he watched) and he was an expert mojito maker.  His name was Marvin and though his accent was oddly French at first listen, he was actually from West Germany. Very chatty and very cool.  Hi Marvin!

Highly unlikely he'll ever read this. Ah well.

Osaka at night is very pretty and we walked along the river a little while and ended up down many side streets before eventually finding our way back to the underground and our beds!

Osaka wheel and at night - 17.8.16

Day 17: Osaka castle and Okinmiyaki

We accidentally slept in a little and decided to go to Osaka castle - which had been reconstructed after burning down. It's 8 floors high and magnificent to look at from the outside.  It was originally built in the 16th century, then was partially damaged during the Summer War in the 17th century and then of course other things have happened since that damaged a lot of things... yeah...

Inside isn't any of the original things, unless you count the museum exhibits, which I found fairly interesting. There were original clothes and bits of armour, boxes, screens and paintings... mostly around the last holder of the castle before the war.

We made it to the viewing platform on the 8th floor, which was quite nice to see Osaka from, though we saw more from the ferris wheel (spied in the distance in one picture).

After that we went in search of lunch - I suggested we go back to Dotonbori, despite it being a nighttime place, because there was a local dish that was highly recommended and the restaurant just might have been open... it was!

So we had Osaka okinmiyaki - a sort of pancake made from noodles, with sea food and a special sauce on top.  I asked Him Indoors to order me something without seafood in, as I'm not a shellfish fan. His had noodles and mine was basically a giant omelet. When they come, they're placed on our table top cooking surface to finish off and the waitress added the sauce to decorate and season it.

It was really nice - except I had to pick out squid (the entire middle was a squid in the end) and prawns. I couldn't finish it all anyway - there was SO much egg! I reckon at least 6 went into making it!

A photo posted by Rosemarie (@chief_mauskateer) on

Here are the pictures from Osaka castle, which include some of the random historical fact signs around the gardens outside - apparently parts of it were haunted!

Osaka castle - 18.6.16

Thursday, 18 August 2016

日本の日の12から15 - Japan Days 12 to 15 (Kyoto)

Days 12 and 13:

We did not do a lot! We were resting! Our legs were utterly wrecked by the mountain climb. We ate out and had some drinks but we really took it slow, which was quite nice, actually. We needed to!

Day 14: Travelling to Kyoto

Up at stupid o'clock again! Tiring. We did leave about 10 minutes later than we intended, which meant that Him Indoors worried we'd miss our booked train - if you don't have a seat reservation, apparently, it can be hard to get a seat at all, and it was going to be a 2 hour journey by train. Well, at that hour, it turned out that it was pretty empty anyway! But we made it with 5 minutes to spare, so... yay!

We used the bullet train to get to Kyoto from Tokyo.  One of my ex-neighbours said that we'd barely feel the speed. This was true; I was conked out asleep!

We found our way to the place we'd AirBnB'd for two nights... it was in the outskirts of Kyoto. Not particularly picturesque and not particularly overwhelmingly pleasant. It was a small one-room apartment, really. Just big enough for a slightly-smaller-than-standard double bed, t.v. in the same corner, wardrobe, kitchenette in the entrance and a teeny tiny shower room which unfortunately reeked of plumbing. It was not pleasant - also I don't think the drain on the floor worked properly which is a) where the smell was coming from and b) why there were loads of midges and mosquitos hanging out in the bathroom. I got bitten thoroughly again (sigh) but they're more or less sorted now. (3 days later I'm typing this.)

We went around Kyoto and visited the Imperial Palace - it was pretty cool. You could go inside of this one, which we did; just as the rain began. It rained and rained and rained! It flooded the grounds and everybody that was inside the castle found somewhere to sit it out. Eventually when it looked as though it had eased off a bit, we put plastic bags over our feet and went over to the entry gate. Then we made our way to the subway station which was fortunately near by. It's a real shame because we didn't get to make the most out of our entrance fee. :(

The castle itself was interesting and full of reproduced wall paintings (the real ones in a museum) and had some waxworks to show feudal lords paying fielty. The building was beautiful and I got great shots of the downpour.

We made our way over to the rest of town and by that time the rain had stopped. We walked along the river which was buzzing with wildlife - herons, ducks, dragonflies, water skaters. I had a great time and took the most beautiful photos, particularly as it was golden hour!

Unfortunately, when I returned home and uploaded my photos I found that my SD card had corrupted ;__;  So those photos are not a thing. I couldn't recover them. I tried! Tried real hard. At least Amazon will give me a refund, so that's good...

Here are the only photos that survived The Disaster:

Kyoto - 15/8/16  (Alas, my SD was corrupted! These are all that were left)

Our first impressions of Kyoto were that it was very much the forgotten ex-capital. It didn't have the same buzz and vibe as Tokyo and we were a bit unfair upon it, perhaps because we were tired. Once in the centre, it's actually rather lovely, and we feel we barely scratched the surface of its places to go and see. We needed another day or two, really.

Day 15: Bamboo Forest, Tenryu-Ji Zen Temple 

The next day we had slept in by accident, and we went to see some temples. We made our way out to the Bamboo forest, as He had really wanted to see it. To get there, we had to take a cute little shuttle train from one hot destination to another! It was a real tourist trap out there - a little townlet which was built around people passing through to visit temples and shrines.  We walked a little way into the forest, where we found a cute little shrine.

We carried on some way and found an enter-able temple, so we decided to visit that and its gardens, which were gorgeous. Really lovely.

We got to see some original wall art, too, which was nice. It can't have been very old though, as they were open to the (very) bright sunshine and we were allowed to photograph it.

Here are the photos from the forest and temple:

Bamboo forest and Tenryu-Ji Zen Temple - 16.8.16

We lost the forest trail but decided we'd tarried there too long - there was other stuff to see. We visited  a bridge that was sign posted and I got to photograph the same birds as the day before - though the heron looks to be an immature and the lighting is waaaay different. I had to touch a lot of these as I either forgot to lower the ISO or it was too bright even on the lowest setting I could manage.  The views were lovely though.

Here are the photos of the bridge area and shuttle train townlet:

Togetsukyo Bridge - 16.8.16

Then we got back onto the shuttle train and made our way towards the Philosopher's Walk, We found another huge temple (closed by that point) and the inspiration for the Ho-Oh tower in the second gen Pokemon games... and an aquaduct which was cool. We walked for hours - it was lovely on a summer's day, but we could imagine how beautiful it would be in the spring and autumn when the blossom out or the leaves were changing.  Then, finally, after MUCH build up, the rain started. We had brought an umbrella, which had earned us a lot of looks, but this time WE were the ones feeling smug. HAH. We managed to make our way back to the subway relatively dry. Success.

Here are the pictures from the Philosopher's Walk:

Philosopher's Walk - 16.8.16

Friday, 12 August 2016

日本の日9 、 10および11 - Japan days 9, 10 and 11 (Sorry it is so long!)

Day 9: Travel to and up Mount Fuji

We got up at around 4am in order to shower and travel to Shinjuku busway station where we collected our tickets and then awaited the bus. During that time, I lost my sunglasses - very sad, as I'd bought them IN Japan and quite liked them. I feel as though I threw some money away - not a lot, but I'm stingy about some things.

The coach was SO comfy! Lots of leg room, reclinable chairs, a not-smelly toilet... Curtains for sleeping... really nice!

It took about 2 hours on the coach to get to the Fifth Station, which is at the base of the "easy" route up the mountain, the Yoshida trail. It was busy and commercialised - there were some overnight beds for those who travelled that far by foot in the first place, there were day lockers, boardering on slightly more expensively priced goods - both souvenire and practical for hikers. We bought some snacks, since we already had water and other stuff, and some basic walking sticks carved from bamboo and with the Fifth Station stamp pre-burned into it. They all came with bells. We took the bells off, to rescue our sanity.

So. The "easy" trail. Well, I guess it's known that because it has several stops along the way - the 6th station had toilets, there were first aid stops at each one... there were technically four 7th station stops.

Some of it was just very steep and slippy, the ground covered in loads of volcanic gravel and clumps of rock. Some of it was cracky and had to be clambered up (by people my height and smaller) and others had "steps" to them, which were pretty much just layers of loose rock held up by wooden ridges.

It was exhausting and one of the hardest things I've done physically - I don't particularly enjoy mountaineering as a thing and the closest I get to hiking is walking around the Lake District. I love doing things like swimming or zumba and could probably do a zumba marathon if it came to it, but with a backback on and carrying stuff and the heat... it's tough. Especially at that angle.

The colours of the mountain were really cool though and it was the perfect weather. We started at around 12 and we made it up to dinner at 18:00, so we did quite well to climb about 3.5km.  It's just a shame that I know I can jog/run (hard to do a proper run with so many slow people in front) 5k in under 40 minutes!  Made the feat seem weird in my head.

The further up the mountain you go, the more expensive it gets - with 100 - 200yen being added to prices. By the time we reached the 8th station, the 200yen "tip" towards maintenance was no longer voluntary. You want to use the toilet? You pay the turnstile!

The food wasn't awful though - it was like posher aeroplane food - and the calorie mate we'd bought to help us up wasn't too bad either, though by the time we got to 3400m above sea level, we weren't particularly keen on the maple or cheese flavours... Nope.

We were in our bunk by 7pm, all set to be awoken at 2am.  At  around 10pm, we were rudely awoken by loud gossip and chatter of some Japanese women - after all those posters telling people to be quiet and stuff! With pictures for those of us who don't read Japanese script! God.  They woke the whole dorm. Him Indoors was up with a headache and I wasn't feeling massively chipper though my headache was a lot less pronounced than his. I went to have a hot chocolate, which was when I started to feel a bit queasy and he went to see if there were any painkillers for sale. Now, we know that the Japanese are strict about painkillers, but it is common practise, when climbing mountains, for people to take aspirin, particularly as it helps to combat altitude sickness. He was told he probably had altitude sickness and should go no further, but not allowed to have any painkillers. We discussed things - he was a bit in denial about having any kind of altitude sickness - and decided to just watch the sunrise from the 8th station, cause it was pretty darn high anyway. So we changed our wake up time for 4.30 instead.

Eventually we went back to bed and I worked out why my feet were cold earlier - my duvet was lying horizontally, not vertically, so I wasn't fully covered up. Duh.

Pictures of journey on the coach to Fuji and a few as we went up Fuji:

Busway to Fifth Station and then up Fujisan - 10/8/16

* Not sure why, but this flickr album is show casing itself in a random order! If you want to look at the photos in order, click through to the album itself.

Day 10: Travel down Mt. Fuji and to stay at Onsenji Yumedono and Day 11: Travelling back to Fujimi

We were awoken by the people getting up at 2 anyway... then we snoozed, I guess, and got reawoken, sort of,at 4.30. We whipped back on appropriate day clothing and went outside. It was very windy and cloudy - at least for those from station 7.3 and below. - but we stayed and watched the entire thing. It took a bit longer than expected, considering we were above the horizon, but I guess that is the reason, now that my brain is not addled by f***ing altitude sickness? I dunno.

When He thought it had finished, and I was popping away the camera so my hands could regain some feeling, he said, "So now the sun is up, I have something I want to ask you." I turned to him, what with my hood obscuring my peripheral vision and met thin air. I looked down and there he was on one knee with a box. He opened the box, which had a ring in and pulled his cutesy "please?" face and said, "Marry me?"  I was a bit surprised, despite having kinda guessed what he was gonna pull, because I didn't envision it properly in my head, we weren't at the top and he didn't abort the idea, he had a ring, he was on his knee... so whilst I knew, I didn't fully believe it I guess. So I said, "yeah, alright then" and we hugged and had a bit of a kiss. Then we watched the rest of the sunrise.

The ring is really sweet - its kind of infinity ring shaped, with the overlapping strip imbedded with diddy diamonds and it is white gold. He was super organised and stole one of my rings, for a size reference. Only issue was that it was a ring for the middle finger, so when my fingers aren't swollen by heat or altitude, in order to not loose it, I wear it on that one. Still very cute. Hard to get used to wearing something that does not require removal before washing my hands or showering, to stop it turning green...

Then we had a rubbish cold breakfast and began our descent, which in some ways was harder than going up, because the risk of falling over was intensified by gravity. However, the route was easier than going up, and the only "challenge" was finding a way to walk without slipping, hurting or pulling muscles. Of which we did all three.  It took us nearly 3.5 hours to go down, which wasn't as long as it felt for me, because I kept misreading some of the signs near the bottom and kept getting "retold" that we were an hour away... for about 2 hours.  Yeah. We also ran out of water about one hour in. So the last hour or so was pure agony... no water, felt ill, sore as hell. So thirsty.

And the dust! So much dust being blown on us by the wind. It was kicked up by people in front or passing us and it went in our eyes, behind our ears for some reason, up our noses (which for me was made worse by the fact I'd had a mini internalised nosebleed, just I didn't know it at the time), in His mouth because he walks with it open, apparently... I had a dustache at one point... it was pretty rubbish.... and yet now we look back on it fairly fondly. Like childbirth, I guess, one kinda blocks out the agonising parts and just looks at the fuzzy outline.

When we got down, we bought a fizzy drink each and ion-balancing water and we collapsed on the ground somewhere and felt much better for it. Then we got a bus to Kawaguchiko station, where we had lunch and then caught a bus towards our fancypants hotel, which we had booked because at the time there was half price deal on the Executive suiteand we thought "it's His birthday, has a prive onsen and we'll deserve it after climbing a mountain". Worth every darn penny!

Photos coming down from Fuji - took most of them coming down as we had a deadline to get up!

Sunrise at 8th Station and journey down Fujisan - 11/8/16

Our stay at the Onsenji

We were early for check-in, so we left our bags and went in search of painkillers, water and air conditioning. All of which we found. We chilled out with a coke ice cream float and enjoyed the scenery of the lake in front of the mountains. Very picturesque - the houses and hotels, although clearly Japanese, also had an Alpine feel to them.  The one time I didn't have my camera, and some sort of huge buzzard or fishing eagle landed on a roof nearby! Typical.

We went and checked in. Once shown to our rooms and left alone a little bit, He immediately stripped off and slid into the onsen, because he can't wait for that sort of thing. I settled in and was photographing the joint when a cute jingle played. I wasn't sure whether it was a clock... then a minute later, it happened again. I investigated the door and when it opened, our attendant was there bringing us tea. She laid it out on the table and then we sat to sort out a few formalities - times for dinner and breakfast and scanning passports. I explained that Him Indoors was in the bath and would just tell him that she was here, so he didn't walk around naked and make a fool of himself. He was happy to stay in the bath! Just as well I hadn't done as he had, though. How embarassing... not even there 2 minutes and already underdressed!

When she had gone, I joined him in the onsen which was bloomin' blissful! It was about 40 degrees and the air was nice outside and just what we needed after that long climb with little sleep. Then we had showers and I have never enjoyed washing my hair so much! Also the shampoo and soaps provided looked and smelled expensive and felt great! And we got matching moisturising lotion, milk and cleanser.

We found our Yukatas and after looking online found it was apparently encouraged for guests to wear them... so we put them on. I've found out later that I should have had a bow when tying but that would have stressed me out I think, rather than doing it the way I did. Oh well... So we wore those (light and comfy) to dinner and fortunately did not bump into other guests. (Still am not sure whether it was encouraged for westerners to wear them but the staff were too kind to say anything).

Here are photos of/from the hotel:

We were served by the attendant who brought us our tea and had a full set meal written out for us on fancy paper.

So for starters, on beautiful crockery with gold and silver leaf, we were served:

Hamoryoufuyose - pike conger - a fishy jelly with some eel in the centre and pike roe
Yukinasu - eggplant - cold, though stewed in preparation and with a light sauce on
Okura Tororo - okra tororo - a delicious cream/mousse made out of okra. It was white for some reason.
Mibuna Usuageohitashi - mibu greens, thin fried and boiled
Yuzenyose - yuzen yose is how they translated it but we still have no sodding clue. It was about the way it was cut, I think?  I can't remember now and unfortunately did not take a camera with me into the dining room! :(
Gyutanhakata - Beef tongue - which I only read after I ate, but the way it was done was nice. It was only about 1.5cm square and it was sandwiched between thick white pieces, probably lard or something. Not like the tongue we sell on deli counters at home, so that was ok.

Next we had corn soup which was thick, yellow and creamy and had chunks of starch jelly at the bottom. It was really nice, but also kind of wierd to be eating sweetcorn in a pureed form. It was so fresh that it tasted as it would on the cob with butter!

Next she came with a platter of seasonal fish; syunsakanayonsyumori.  There was salmon, tuna, chopped squid (only time I haven't minded squid, because it was diced into very small, chewable pieces) and a pretty-scaled one I didn't know but LOVED.

Then came the grilled dish: Osazaetizufuumiyaki - turban shell with cheese. We are still unsure whether what was grilled inside was what used to live in the shell (a mollusk) or mushroom or something that technically didn't live in that shell but was still a mollusk... anyway, it was grilled to the point where it was like eating grilled mushroom and I tried not to think about it.  The flavour was just of grilled food, so it probably was a meat... Not unpleasant. Much nicer than escargot, Je suis désolé, Valerie!

By this point, were were commenting on how each dish was light enough that actually, we could probably eat the whole menu. Then our attendant brought in the very very rich, uni-purin  - sea urchin pudding.

I am not a fan of oyster sauce or any shell fish-based food. I just don't like the flavour. This wasn't horrible but the flavour was strong and it was definitely shell fish rich and creamy and while with the other dishes you could easily just put the lid back on and quietly have her take it away if you couldn't finish it, this time she remained in the room to prepare the next dish on a Japanese stone rechaud, so I ate at least half while appearing too interested in what she was doing to continue. I then placed the lid on the rest when the next dish was finished. Smooth, Mauskateer, smooth.

It was Koushugyu Sukiuaki - thinly (we're talking serrano ham thin) sliced locally sourced beef and tofu stewed in a sweetened soy and then eaten in raw egg, which we had had to crack and whisk in our own bowls. Then she added local speciality starch noodles to the pan, with the vegetables she had not served yet, and poured over a pumpkin soup, which mixed with the soy nicely,

After we had eaten that, we were served our pudding which was made up of three things: coffee jelly, seasonal fruit (cantaloupe melon, grapes and a wedge of kiwi) and a green tea mochi.

I genuinely regret not bringing my camera with me, or smuggling my phone under my sash. The dishes were beautifully presented and the crockery was gorgeous. The turban shell, for example, was served on a porcelain bowl-plate-thing that was reminiscent of a clam shell, decorated sparingly with a sort of gold leaf swirl.  The bowl with the corn soup was black with gold swirl and tree on it. Just gorgeous.

After all that wonderful food, we went back to our room and slid back into the bath. It was just too nice! Then by 9.30 we were asleep (in our beds, of course) and we slept solidly until 8.10 the next morning!

We quickly washed and went for breakfast. We dressed again in the Yakutas, as we were in a hurry and apparently one does at breakfast, too, but apart from the Japanese guests (who apparently gave us the side eye - I didn't see) we were the only ones to do so...midly embarassing, but we were there to enjoy ourselves? I dunno. Too tired and hungry to care by that point.

We were served plain rice, some of the best miso soup  I've ever had (in an adorable curved bowl with lid that made it look like a little cartoon toadstool, but with class decoration), another meat broth similar to the Sukiyaki, which I couldn't eat in the end, a delicious piece of baked fish each, some carrot and cucumber sticks to dip in an interesting hoi-sin-meets-bbq sauce, clear jelly noodles (cold) in seasoning and finally two cubes of watermelon served on a leave shaped platter sitting on a round dish, around the base of the leaf dish was a silver circle brushed around - kinda like a ripple on water! So simple. The stem of the leave had a bit of gold leaf on. Beautiful.

We were also served green tea, which was the most welcome thing that that morning - so refreshing and the first in two weeks that wasn't over stewed, because it was freshly made.

Then we had another bath and shower, packed and checked out. They kindly gave us a free ride to the station in their car and that was that!

Our train from Kawaguchiko was a Thomas the Tank Engine-themed one, advertising Thomas Land. SO COOL.  I got pictures, because my brother, as most boys of an age, was a huge fan back when he was little. There was a very cute 3-4 year old in our carriage who did the cute pose outside as his mum photographed him on the platform when they got off and then he waved the train goodbye. SO CUTE.

Here are the few photos of the journey back to Shinjuku on the Thomas Train:

Onsenji Yumedono & journey on a Thomas themed train back to Shinjuku - 12/8/16

And as I edit the photos, I realise I forgot to buy the bag of volcanic rock that I was going to use for my Mountains and Volcanoes unit... damn.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

日本第7、第8日 - Japan days 7 and 8

Day 7: Nakano

So I did not write day 7 up yesterday because we did not really do much. We had decided to have a "slow" day. We got up later, washed some clothes (dried within minutes because of the heat) and then eventually made our way out to a place Him Indoors knew because a Digimon game had been set there: Nakano Broadway

It is not very big but it does have a cool shopping centre - all of it covered and is like a long tunnel leading to a proper department store style complex.

I have been having a mixed experience, because I awoke with not just one, not two, but SEVEN insect bites! 4 of which are on one leg. I could tell immediately that one in particular was going to cause problems. I may have already scratched it in my sleep, who knows? What I do know is that the creature(s) in question a) went to town on me and b) was let in by the guests in room 202, who had left the day before. You see, they seemed to think that leaving the every communal window open was a good idea, even though it was often hotter outside than inside!

They also left the windows open when they left the house, including one downstairs in the other toilet, which could have more easily been climbed into by thieves.

Well, I had some cream we had managed to acquire for a lesser bite (I miss that one, now! Took it for granted!) when we were in Akihabara, so I used that as soon as I had discovered them.  In the heat, as my legs swelled, the itchiness became somewhat of an issue. The Muhi wasn't as effective on these as with previous, less destructive bites.

I coped though! I used drinks bottles as cold compresses and when I got home I did the hot spoon thing.

We did not buy a lot - I found a funny little phone charm of Freeza, a villain from Dragonball, caught in his hell cocoon looking angry, straight out of Resurrection F. I HAD to have it - it was about £1.20! It is now attatched to my bag and amuses me greatly. I also was weak and bought a little box set of Domesticated Vegeta models... hilarious. Got him making the Octopus dish for Beerus in Battle of the Gods, wearing his pink apron.

We ate in a sushi bar, the sort with the conveyor belt system. It also had overhead electronic order touch screens so you could have what you want delivered to you by...wait for it... A FOOD TRAIN!!  SO cool.
Then you pressed a button to send the train  back.

I guess it is just indicative of how little we drink these days, coupled with emptier stomachs and possibly because the Sours cider drinks are stronger than typically assumed? But we were somewhat tipsy afterwards which was rather fun.

Then we stopped off for a drink in a bar in Shinjuku, which I guess is sort of a Red Light District in most areas... We found an Irish pub which turned out to be more authentic than the English ones! Hah!

Here are photos from that day. Check out all the Moomin merch!!!! :(  I REALLY want to get one of nearly each character on the bottom shelf. They are more accurate and better quality than at home. Each one is £7-9 as well :(  They have Soryu, they have Thingumy and Bob (as a set), they have a decent Little My, the Snork, The Hemulin... argh!

Nakano - 8/8/16

Day 8 - Akihabara again

Him Indoors booked tickets for the Final Fantasy cafe in Akihabara, so once we had gone to the pharmacy to get some stronger after bite (they got worse and woke me up - my suspect bite was painful at 4.30am), we played in arcades, did some shopping for friends and then we had a late lunch there at 4.30

I have played FFXIV for a short while but I  not a huge fan - he liked it before the current expansions - but it was cool. You got given a huge pack of stuff. Instruction booklet with dos and don'ts, once you get in; a set menu based off two characters; a grand menu; an order form and a drinks menu.

I got a cheese omelette on a bed of basil rice with a stripe of ketchup over and a square of salted (everything is here btw) butter which was set alight!

He got a sausage dish, octopus dumplings and fish and chips to share.

Our first drinks were a coke with rose cassis jelly and a guava juice with other stuff in and a blueberry. Really nice.

For pudding we had a pistachio mousse cake, a chocolate fondant with raspberry and he also ordered a pancake with bananas.

We were very very full afterwards!  (Also the reason there are toilet photos in there is that I was just loving how FRICKIN' FANCY that building's loos were!!!)

FF Cafe - 9/8/16

Tomorrow we are getting up at about 4 to ensure we are at a particular bus station that will take us to the 5th station on the Yoshida trail up Mt Fuji. Then we need to hike up to our but which is at the 8th station, where we will rest and get ready to climb up so that we are there for the sunset. Which may actually be a damn sight earlier than either of us realised when concocting our whacky scheme.

I, for one, am hoping there is snow further up so my leg doesn't over heat! Maybe I can shovel some snow onto my bites.

As I type I am sitting with just my legs from the knee down in the bath, because this is what they currently look like :(

Even in the cold bath, that red area feels hard and sore when touched.

Itchy, itchy!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

日本六日目 - Japan Day 6

Day 6: Ghibli Museum, Inokashira Park and Mikata

We went to the Ghibli museum! It's very cute and has interesting features. It's a nice little visit - though there is not really that much as a "museum". It's great for the children and for merch you would not find anywhere else!  There were sets of things which I would have loved but I would have to buy all of them rather than choose... no self-control.

I did however get a small stuffed Yakul, Ashitaka's deer from Princess Mononoke. It's very cute! Worth it! I got a couple of post cards for myself - they had the photographics ones, of course, but they did the same shots but drawn, Miyazaki-style! So I got one of it at night. :)

The best room is the permanent exhibit, "Birth of Movement", which shows you the fundamentals behind creating animated pictures. Very cool - I'd seen stuff like that before, in history, but this was entirely aimed around the films and short animations done by the studio, starting very very early on!

We couldn't take photos INSIDE the building, but you could outside.  The museum is an interesting shape in itself and each window had stain glass imposed in front relating to a film. Up a tower covered in vines, you could reach a garden much like one on Laputa and were greeted by a giant statue of one of guardians.

There was a room which was the interior of the Cat Bus - SO COMFY.  And a cool model of Howl's castle with a few inside views through the odd window or nostril; I could see a little Calcifer dancing away in there. ^_^

I also bought the kids' book of the shop - it is a touch-and-feel / pop-up / layered artwork set of pages around the museum's areas, which was much nicer than a massive tome in a language I didn't understand. I really wish they had the short videos show-cased on a dvd or something though. I want to see them in full! There was one about a spider who lived under or near water and enjoyed having his butt in a bubble...I didn't even know that there was a mini spin-off with Mei and Baby Catbus! It's 14mins long and I think a collection should be made of them all.

Even though he isn't a fan of the studio's work, even Him Indoors quite liked the shorts we saw.

Ghibli Museum, Mitaka - 7/8/16

We looked up things to see around us and saw there was a temple in the park, so we went in search of that - it took quite a while as even though we weren't lost, the park was huge. It was spectacular - it is a wood, pretty much, with a lake (they call it a pond) in the centre where you can rent boats or pedalos; it has loads of benches every few meters; it has small cafes and public loos dotted around; it has areas where people can busk with nice music; areas to play; lots of great view and bridges across the lake.  It also hosts a zoo, which is split into "regular" and "aquatic life".

Inokashira Park, Mikata - 7/8/16

We saw a cute little boutique street leading off the park so we went along there. It was so cute and lovely - the clothes were no more expensive than anywhere else. It is just really nice to see so many Indie shops and cafes or restaurants. They packed a lot in nice, cute, small spaces. I almost bought a dress, actually.  I did manage to find a nice parasol in the roofed area nearer to the centre of the townlet, so that'll help on Tuesday when it is 37 degrees!

We had intended to go back to Ikebukuro for dinner, but came across this teeny steak house above a butchers. After a very very steep set of stairs we came to a small room with bar seating and table seating. I think it could just about hold 20 customers.  The kitchen was open to viewing - the work top was a huge hot grill.  We went with the chef's special for the day, which was incidentally 50% off - and it was amazing! The best beef I've had in a long long long time. Everything about our meal was just right - portion size, seasoning amount, waiting times, the flavour. Mmm-mmm!

Cool things about Japan

Top things we like about Japan!

  1. The trains run frequently and are on-time
  2. The train fare is cheap!
  3. The trains are air conditioned, something the tube should consider its trains to do - we pay more for them so why not?
  4. The curtains have magnetic bits on the rail holders so that they shut properly at the top.
  5. Their merchandise is high quality AND affordable. 
  6. Shibuya Disney store is like a dream. 
  7. Their drinks are gorgeous. 
  8. They have vending machines everywhere to help you stay hydrated cheaply
  9. They recycle ALL the things - there is nearly always a PET plastic or can bin next go a vending machine
  10.  Restaurant food so far has been top knotch - particularly the meat side of things. 
  11. We have seen hardly any vandalism so far - I did manage to spot some graffiti on portable road barriers!  Easily fixed.
  12. If there are no bins, people carry their waste until they find them (mostly)
  13. Because toilets are self cleaning, all public loos are great. 
  14. People look after their environment - they don't pee on seats or use their menstral blood to write on walls. All toilet paper gets flushed. 
  15. Men's toilets apparently don't smell like the ones at home! (Reliable source)
  16. Everything stays open pretty late. They open later, too. Which means we can lie in if we want to! 
  17. The humidity isn't too big of a downer because every building so far has been air-conditioned. Just duck into one to cool down. This may be different in places like Osaka, however.  
  18. The trains have their own jingles at each station! 
  19. The metro lines have advertising tvs. Fun to watch. 
  20. The train platforms have markers so you can start to queue where the door will be! 
Bonus: Their parks are lovely!! So many trees, patches of woodland, activities, ponds in each one, benches, things to do... We went to one in Mitaka, near the Ghibli museum and it knocks the pants off any park that I've been to in the UK.  Could easily spend an entire day there.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

日本五日目 - Japan day 5

Day 5 - Imperial Palace Attempt 2, National Art Gallery and Shibuya

So I get what he means about the massive Shibuya crossing now - it's that one in Lost in Translation. Apparently there's a dog statue somewhere, but we didn't see it. He gets a bit weird if I don't know about something he does, but of course that can't go both ways =P

Anyhoo!  We went back to the palace.  It was about the same temperature but quite a bit more humid today - it's the first day where I was uncomfortable in my clothes, actually. I had to go into a public loo at one point to strip and towel off because I just felt rubbish.

So you can't actually go into the building... what is left is in use by the government. However the grounds are pretty extensive and there're lots of old walls of buildings that have since burnt down - that seems to be the history of the place, actually.  "Building built.  20 years later burned down.  New building. Moved capital. New building. Bombed"

Still I got some more pics. I also learned that there is more than one type of bamboo! Fun.

Imperial Palace Take II - 6/8/16

After that, we popped into the National Art museum in search of lunch but were shown out by the waiter. They were shutting and probably also didn't want us there for other reasons. *side eyes*

There was a special exhibition on around the work of a poet, Yoshimasu Gozo (1939 - )   It was lot of post-war modern stuff - mostly his notebooks, which were interesting, some videos, his cassette collection (his choice in poetry was VERY telling), his copper sheet work, doodles and finally photography... I'll type up the introduction to the exhibition for you:

This exhibition sets out to examine the relationship between the poet Yoshimasu Gozo (b. 1939) and the voice from a variety of angles. The gallery is divided into nine zones. The struture of the exhibition was inspired by Yoshimasu's ongoing interest in forms that gradually emerge in a space, such as a winnowing basket or the letter "U". Thus, a black silk curtain was chosen to create boundaries that may or may not exist. Though each zone is based on a particular genre (1. Diaries and Memos; 2. Photographs; 3. Copper Sheets;  4.Voice Notebooks, Etc;  5. Manuscripts;  6. gozoCine; 7 & 8. Dear Monster; 9. Collaborations), depending on your viewpoint, the boundary between them seems virtually non-existent. This signifies the profound link between genres in Yoshimasu's work. Though the zones are numbered, there are roundabout routes and flight lines, so please enjoy moving back and forth freely.

....yeah.... It was a bit pretentious at times, in the very least. But that is post-1940 prolific poets for you!

We looked at two other floors... There were some funny momments in the cubist sections.  But the traditional style paintings were huge, impressive and beautiful.

 Then we went to Shibuya to explore and experience some of the night life. Except one can't, really, because of train times and stuff. Also he doesn't enjoy clubbing and whatnot.

We did some window shopping - they have the most AMAZING Disney store I have EVER been to. I really want a lot of the stuff. I wish I could come back in September/October time - I bet they'd put out loads of cool Disney villains stuff!  So much stuff there that we simply don't get over here. :(

Then we went to a bar - I had forgotten what life in Britain was like before the smoking ban. It wasn't as bad as in British pubs, but seeing people light up and entering spaces that smell of stale smoke is both weird and not altogether pleasant.

We had a pizza -which wasn't actually that bad for 1000 yen. Really cheesy (Japan doesn't "get" cheese). The base was good (not sure why it tasted different but I liked it) and it went well with our drinks.

I began with a glass of plum wine "on the rocks" - the ice cubes were literally sizes of rocks. Well. Not quite literally. But to the point you couldn't actually drink the wine. I had to take the top few out! They filled the palm of my hand!  He had a Red Eye, which is a very light lager with tomato juice in, which I quite liked, so I had that as my second drink. Also cause Japanese beer is quite weak and not that hoppy, I didn't set off my hayfever!

And best of all, my grandmother emailed me pictures of 3 letters that arrived today from the DVLA - First acknowledging the email I'd sent and to ask me to fill in a form I'd already sent in,  the second to tell me they were satisfied that I was fit to drive and the third to issue me my replacement driving licence :D   SO HAPPY.

Here are pictures from Shibuya, more on my instagram here.

Shibuya, Tokyo - 6/8/16