November



On the countdown to Christmas it’s day one in the Big Brother diet house and the inmates are already arguing about how many calories there are in a packet of cashew nuts. Bilbo claims that as nuts, they practically count as a fruit serving. I maintain they are the gastronomic equivalent of eating lard. We have some way to go before mutual harmony prevails. Anyway, what the hell have I been doing since June? Well, it’s all been very exciting. I took a short trip to Tokyo. My second, and it’s changed so much, even since 2001. Last time, the underground had no English signs. Now it’s a model of bilingual ease. Not just signs, but even announcements on some lines.

I arrived in the afternoon with no one to greet me, despite the emailed confirmation that they would be. The only choice was to get on a limousine bus and head for the hotel, which I hoped was booked for me, the Capitol Tokyu. Three nights of insomnia ensued, during which I enjoyed the films loaded on my nice new ipaq. Well, I say enjoyed. That was true of “Bonfire of the Vanities” which I’d owned for years and never watched as I rarely get to control the master TV, but less so of “The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse” which was disappointingly shoddy. But I was so awake, I was grateful for it passing an hour. A bit like a prisoner who suddenly finds the Star crossword an attractive challenge.

The work was enjoyable and I met some good people. On my day off I took the tourist trail to Hakone, which is great fun – a “romance train” a local train through an impressive gorge, a funicular, a rope car, a pirate boat and a bus. I got on the wrong bus back, but it didn’t matter, except to put me on a more ordinary train which was unbelievably slow in comparison to the first train of the day.

The following morning I nipped across to the Tsentso-Ji temple and then into Akihabara. I had previously scouted out Laox and now bought a ceramic white PSP. I should have searched further for the best price apparently but time wasn’t on my side and I knew it was a safe bet. And at £116 it was significantly better than the £180 in the UK. I wanted to see the burial place of Confucius which was close by, but failed to make that, and returned to the hotel for a quick kip before the evening do.

On the last day I shared a journey to the airport with the French delegate, a very pleasant young man who kept feeling the need to explain new media to me. I listened patiently for the most part, only intervening at his most basic explanations. But he was a very polite young man and able to converse fluently in English while I was too cowardly to use my French. But the young can be so patronising. I expect I was much the same at the same age. Doesn’t stop me wanting to slap them round the head with an old ZX Spectrum though.

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