Navigating Japan: rules vs etiquette

One word in a FaceBook thread and the penny drops.

A week down in Japan and the culture shock is subsiding a little. I can imagine many foreigners – outside person; gaijin – getting caught up in how things work, retreating to their westernised hotel room and bolting the door. I think we’re doing okay. By which I mean we’ve yet to be arrested.

It’s a country of 2 ways. The Japanese way and the wrong way?

Before setting out we took advice – cheers to the Jodester – and researched. But that’s not the same as experiencing it first hand.

Things to consider:

  • Don’t leave chopsticks vertically speared in your food.
  • Blend in.
  • Shoes off indoors.
  • Which side you tie your room wear (dressing gown).
  • Avoiding cracks in the pavement.
  • Bowing.
  • Tipping.
  • Where to stand on the station platform?
  • Exhibition grade farting/toilet noises.
  • Wearing Yukuta to dinner but not to morning service.
  • Towels and “naked communion” in onsen.
  • Eating in public: where can/can’t you do this?
  • I may have made up one of this list. But only one: Any guesses?

It’s a complex business alright.

Some stuff – including and in addition to the above – is not illegal nor downright rude, it’s just not classy. Other stuff is life imprisonment standard.

Exhibit A: Beer boys' first trip to the onsen

With a strong similarity to Iceland, it’s most certainly scrub first, then once sparkly clean, into the hot pools to soak. The difference being it’s birthday suit only and – typically – segregated. [See image below provided as a helpful guide at a public onsen.] But it’s a DIY affair unlike Istanbul, so a lot less violent.

Onsen rulesSo with a headful of rules the boy and I trip off to the baths in our “room wear”. (Japanese dressing gown/robe.) Sandals off at the tatami? Check. Boys changing room? Check. Then [insert crockery smashing sound of dropped tray here/record needle abrupt scratch] utter consternation. A room full of naked Japanese men double take at the Beers. A second passes. I look around. It’s us. We are the problem. [Freeze frame.] Bowing and panic all at once. A middle age chap offers in worried, clipped English: “MEN ONLY ONSEN.”

Eh? Ahhhh.

I tousle Morgan’s luscious blonde, curly locks in a fatherly fashion.

“It’s okay! He’s a boy!”

They remain unconvinced. What now? We expose our full resplendence in a stiff-upper-lip, workaday “nothing to see here” fashion, exhibit our external plumbing and – without further ado – normal business is resumed. [Music restarts.]

Whilst we get stared at a fair bit – we are a novelty item to the locals here in Kanazawa – the onsen experience is suitably superb.

Morgan cares not. He loved it. (He’s made of sterner stuff than I. That would have sent me scurrying under a rock at his age.)

Penny drop

This is where the aforementioned FB penny comes into focus: “How did you get on with the onsen etiquette?” 

I was seeing Japan as all about rules, whereas really it’s about etiquette. I can’t really explain the difference other than I have an urge to non-comply, resist and break the former. The latter? I suppose it’s a Britishness gene? Where one considers correct etiquette as right and proper. Gentlemanly? Mm. Polite? Certainly. When in Rome… Going with the flow.

As I have mentioned before “the nail that sticks up…” but conformity is not really what we’re talking about here.

In any event, experiencing Japan with, er, correctness is the way we’re going. Even if it is our blundering, blithering, awkward gaijin version.


Arigatou gozaimasu


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Fushimi Inari: Shrine-tastic

Before I start, may I point you to an entirely more respectful, insightful and factual piece on this wonderful place: Better photos too.

And back to our scheduled programme...

The train rolls into Inari station. The tourists flood out. Within 20m we are on final approach to Shrine central.

The mahousive Orange gates – I will never look at the B&Q logo the same way again – beckon you up to the temples. And herein lies a rub. This is a sacred site yet it is treated like a theme park. We see our first Japanese temple-rage incident as a pensionable local gets properly, coronary threateningly angry with some Eurpoean tourists who have the temerity to pause and sit on the temple steps to munch their snacks. He was probably correct in his outrage, as it’s an important place to those of religion and all, but I actually felt a little sorry for the visitors as they skulked off, tails between legs: they were unconciously ignorant, not wilfully distrispectful.

We head past them with mental note to stick to the rules. That’s how Japan works. [At Heathrow a million miles back we encountered a family flying to Addis Abbaba at the check-in assistance desk. They were heading to a place where the concept of rules likely seemed different. Their approach certainly wasn’t fitting in with the airline procedures. A wildly different world away in retrospect from here.]

Heading up hill we encounter our first Orange tori gate. These are then arranged one behind the other to a vanishing point. About 70cm apart until they curve away out of sight into the bamboo. They are fab, enticing, resolute. We climb. Presently, the crowds are behind us and the quiet descends. To the side hither and thither are shrines. Languorous, Zen like pussy-cats casually accept a cwtch from their sacred bolt holes. We climb. Humidity becomes more noticeable.

We then realise that it’s a much longer walk than the map suggests. Damn you, non-linear illustrative visitor information artist! We push for one more shrine. It’s a corker, only missing an Indiana Jones and emerge onto a temporarily private, perfect spot where the lights of Kyoto twinkle as dusk descends. We didn’t summit, no flag planted, but we had a lovely family moment.


Behold: Kyoto!

Ah, we hadn’t though about descending in the dark.

Luckily at a 24/7 shrine they’ve opted for pilgrim-path-lighting. It adds a touch more predictability to the trek and some eerily beautiful views of the site. All too soon we’re back at the station. The signs warn of wild boar. Gilly swears she heard one. No, really she totes did. Honest. Why does nobody believe her… WHY?!


Cover shot for the difficult third album


Avoiding carnivorous piggies we find a train. In short order we are aloft in Kyoto station in failed search of Ramen: the queues were too much. What we find is our best meal yet. Was it perfectly authentic? All we cared about was that is was perfectly delicious. Then more trains back to Osaka before we head on a altogether more secretive adventure.

Crikey, got a bit Hardy Boys at the end there. Calm down.

So to relieve the tension, a picture prefixed with an inconsequential smutty question: Teeny gate or enormous pussy?


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A snippet of Kyoto.

Not a whiff of ‘protocol as we emerge from the ordinary platform the into the extraordinary space that is Kyoto Station. We ride super-length escalators to the sky garden and argue pointlessly about what to do next. You see dear reader Kyoto is bloody huge and arriving sans plan is a whole heap o’time a’wastin’.

Taxi! We skip the queue to get a “tourist friendly, no extra charge” cab. Nice. Presently we are stuck in endless Kyoto traffic and I am admiring the car. It’s a Toyota Crown (Taxi model, natch). A squared off 1970s silohuette like a lesser Japanese Volvo with doilies on the head-restraints. This one has done 662,000km. Wh-aaaaat? Literally moon and back mileage. I ask what our drive’ – a local, who helps by speaking English – likes about his whip?

“Very reliable.”

(I admit, I giggled. Think about it.)

After a blur of cherry blossom we are turfed out – as requested – on the road up to the Kiyomizu-dera temples where tourism seems to have dumped every single tourist in the world. Right now. All of us. All at once. The low, narrow hill side street shops are hawking all sorts of trinkets and local sweets – they love a sweet treat – but we resist and head ever upwards.

Kyoto BlossomUnlike the superficial selfieness of Nara, the “we’re totally into it” thing here is to tour a shrine or three in a rented Kimono. You get groups of girls and occasional couples – but never gangs of lads – giving it large: a shy, giggly, bashful, Japanese “large” on a sanctified hillside under the cherry blossom. Like a fancy dress hen do only not. They are deeply committed to the vibe and are doing it correctly. Drawing attention to themselves is not how it’s done. Despite the looky-here threads.

All shrined-up we head for the Maruyama Park where Mum admonishes us all for craving food from the oddles of noodle stores. “There’ll be plenty at the food market!” There wasn’t. The Nishiki Market is a spectacle alright: a long, narrow aisle fish/veg/spices/tea/fruit extravaganza but no Borough Market. D’oh. We end up snacking in a Seven-Eleven and soaking up free WiFi.

Blimey Kyoto is busy. Yes, it is “cherry blossom” season and all but still. It feels like a million souls that the census recorded. Plus tourists.

We ignore 97% of the sights and instead make for Inari and the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Good call as it turns out.

Apologies Kyoto: we spared you no time and moved too fast.

Kyoto Tower

Gilly literally blurs she moves so fast

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A grand day out at Nara Park

Once upon a really long time ago the decision was made to make a new capital city. Although it didn’t last – 75 years they say – the Park at Nara – Nara-koen – is clearly a very popular place to have a look-see at the temples and shrines that survive that period of Japanese history.  How peeved they must have been at those upstarts in Kyoto – just up the road – who were (lets imagine) smugly constructing a new capital that everyone would know about globally centuries later. (Show offs.)

Not that Nara is a secret! An easy hour from Osaka on the train it’s a well worn path with domestic and foreign vistors. There are sooo many traditional/significant/holy buildings in what is now a huge protected parkland: a splendid and rewarding way to walk up an appetite on a spring day under the cherry blossom. Additionally the park is home to countless deer that are as tame as tame can be. These are not free range meat, nor a plague you understand, but a living sculpture symbolic as messengers of the gods. I suspect if you ask youngsters what the best thing about Nara it’d be feeding sjhika-sembei (deer biccys) to these beasts.

[Although there were also countless young folk manoeuvring said deer to get every conceivable manner of selfie. Enough already. That said, they are a cut above/below are those making highly rehearsed Vogue poses. “A la modelle Rodney” as Del-Boy might say. With feelings oscillating between mirth and distaste at such runaway vanity we trip around these superficial cretins. I should also point out that there are simultaneously much sweeter self portraits going on as newly wed couples in traditional dress make very earnest romantic poses. The latter are clearly alright whilst the former are just numpties. And us doing family selfies is totes fine. Obvs. Un hypocrite? Moi?]

What would grown-ups takea way froma day here? It is worth tripping around here because the grand temple is home to Japan’s largest, the Great Bhudda. Even with the crowds it’s as close to an enlightenment this atheist is likely get stepping into the vast space where he hangs out. And even then, as robust a chap as he is, the building itself outdoes him.



Just a gate really, you should see the main event.

Even by today’s standards the Todai-ji temple complex is huge and the Daibutsu-den hall itself? Mighty. Intimidating even. In the seventh century? It must have had the subservient classes quaking in their wooden clogs. Largest wooden building in the world they say. But wait, what’s this? Rebuilt in 1709? Sheesh: we’ve been cheated! But wait again? Rebuilt at 2/3rds original size? You’re kidding!?



A totally acceptable classy selfie

With the stern rule of “we’re not bloody paying to go in there” in operation (to preserve the daily budget since you ask) we avoid the highbrow museums etcetera and stick to the walking between (free} temples/shrines. So heathens that we are we will have doubtless missed the point in all sorts of school-boy error ways. Sorry purists. But despite the crowds we take away happy memories. And deer biscuit crumbs.


Lantern monitor (will work for biscuits)


Big bronze Bhudda and buddies

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Kobe on the Bosphorus

Urban Japan takes on a Bladerunner-esque look on a rainy evening, Chinatown in Kobe might have Harrison Ford running past any moment. Away from the bustle, purely by chance on a back street mooch around Motomachidori (Kobe) the Bitter End bar winks at me through spring drizzle. They are open, despite appearances. We slip inside. It’s the underbelly of a 1970s block but they’ve given small, boxy industrial basement vintage chic furnishings, a proper hi-fidelity audio setup, a sturdy bar and all the whiskey. All of it. These guys are underplaying it beautifully: they don’t even have a website. (They just about manage a Facebook Page. Just.)

bitter end

Whiskey selection out of shot

We settle at the bar. Miles Davis’s muted trumpet leads the quartet.  The lights are low. (The kids are at home in our Airbnb 50 steps away, so it’s a date.) It might be 3AM, but it’s closer to 9.

“Whiskey rocks and a G&T.”

Barkeep – proprietor – chisels an exquisite glassy boulder and splashes Suntory Single Malt on it. (When in Rome…) Tanqueray – iced with lime – and local tonic for her. He takes his time to craft us our drinks. A female vocal “The nearness of you” drifts from sublime JBL speakers.

Our neighbour at the bar engages us in conversation because he too has a G&T. The only other customers are, frankly, school age girls and I’ve a good mind to call their Mum.

In English, he says directly to me, with some difficulty in this part of the world it has to be said, matter-of-factly, that “you are Bruce Willis.”

(I am the only bald westerner in this Kobe bar tonight I’d venture. It’s dark and he’s wearing thick glasses.)

“You’re not the first person to say that. [To Gilly] Remember that carpet hawker in Istanbul who used that line to woo us into rug purchase?”

Thus begins a surreal, conversational exchange in which our gently sozzled friend will not accept the following fact: that we are not Turkish. Though it’s amazing how alike the words Turkish and English can sound spoken/heard by a Kobe local. Barkeep is a quiet, attentive man, a listener, a watcher: he can see the issue and is as amused as we are.

After several explanations from different directions I think we’ve established understanding. A satisfied lull breaks out in appreciation of Thelonius Monk caressing the ivories. Then…

“What food you eat in Turkey?

“Is safe?”

And so on.

As if scripted to step in and break the loop an ubercool dude in a slim suit with 3 day stubble and cropped afro slips in from stage left. (You don’t see stubbled men in these parts and he is rocking this look.) He orders beer.

He correctly establishes the presence of Welshness and associates it with rugby. We toast the Japanese showing in the world cup. We hang out. Quietly, gently, but with some style I’d venture. Melodic tenor sax, brushed drums and double bass. Out of nowhere G&T-man opines – eyeing the female patrons – that “Japanese girls too shy” with a level of disappointment bordering on mild resignation and hurtful lament. The young ladies are fully made up, have made maximum effort with the dress code and are quietly enjoying cocktails. I start to wonder what goes on in here.

Barkeep intervenes. He intones that although our lightly pickled new friend may look adolescent he is indeed 40 and a cardiologist. The girls? Mid 20s. Our friend is drinking G&T alone because his wife is a radioligist and sleeping ahead of working a shift at the hospital. IE: It is all above board. Shame on yours truly for doubting the patrons provenance.

The ladies finish their drinks, smile shyly and gracefully depart before the spell of this place is broken.

So do we.

It’s barely 10PM: coulda’ stayed all night.

We’re like that, us Turks.

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Osaka Tuesday

With jet-lag a fogging, nagging irritant – a distant car alarm that won’t shut off or a achy back – we plunge into Osaka for a full day of Japanese. It’s not long before we are utterly confused, slightly lost and mildly tetchy with each other. Aren’t family holidays great?

Fear not loyal reader: writing this piece some 14 hours later all is in Accord.

Back to the morning: a cloudless sky, spring in the air and it’s shorts on. (The latter a treat for the locals.) We make our way to the railway station and board the JR (Japan Railways) Loop train to Osaka Station. If you’ve not been, let me tell you that Osaka is big. Probably bigger than Pershore, likely bigger than Tonbridge Wells. Heck, it might even shade Swindon. Last time they counted, it was pushing 3 million souls. But that’s seeing it as a separate entity. If we’re talking metropolitan areas, it’s NINETEEN MILLION people.

I am mildly disappointed to report the Loop train doesn’t perform roller coaster manoeuvres, it merely encircles Osaka city centre. When I say “city centre”, of course I mean indistinguishable vast jumbled urban sprawl. Aside from occasional architectural gems and some curiously individual structures, it appears the Japanese unflinchingly raze traditional buildings in the name of progress. As such this means nondescript concrete stretches further than the eye can see. There are myriad subway trains to choose from too and – I feel a later blog coming on – a confusing yet well timed railway system. The trains and tracks here are owned by a plethora of companies with tickets often non-transferable. This would be fine if a) we weren’t jet-lagged b) the signage was in a script we could read (let alone understand) c) we knew where we were, where we were going and d) cheers again jet-lag – we knew who we were and what the heck we were doing in Japan in the first place.

Osaka apartment view

A tiny bit of Osaka, viewed from our apartment

Maybe this is painting a picture of disorder? Please desist from such a notion oh reader of blog, there is much order to admire. This not to say they don’t have Civic pride and all that Jazz, because they oh so clearly do. The streets are clean, the railway stations litter free and the Osakans move with purpose. We are treated to many smiles where all who serve us – without exception – are helpful, attentive and polite.

Although the latter trait drops away a bit from the general populous when we make our way into the melee of Dotomburi along with many thousands of other night time gawkers. More of a tide of humanity than “no madam, after you, I insist.” Bits of the area are lit up in a fashion that would embarrass Leicester if not Times Square, other areas harshly illuminated by cold florescent tubes, elsewhere darkened yet nonthreatening , intriguing lanes are teeming with eateries, the occasional shrine and so, so many shops.

We pause for Octopus Balls – who knew? – which are a local Legend.


Octopus Balls?

They are freshly cooked leading to 2nd degree oral burns all round. Some while later we are ushered upstairs in a teeny eatery. Sushi time! We are given pencil, pad and an laminated pictorial guide with English to copy under each picture. I opt for “fatty tuna in seaweed wrap with Welsh onion.” The wasabi catches Mog by surprise and I lament not filming the poor sap as he struggles for breath. British softies take note: not optional here. Wasabi-on-the-side is for Waitrose pretend-sushi. We’re Jap-side now and Osaka is self-referred to as the nation’s kitchen. I have yet to see if fish and chip shop though.]

We stop for supplies in a ubiquitous convenience store. They are super abundant. Once inside, everything is slightly vexing when it comes to food and drink. Apart from maybe beer which I can confidently identify. A 7 Eleven store is positively bursting with unidentifiable chow. Mog & I play “guess the foodstuff” and bring back snacks with varying degree of acceptance. Already sensing that guess-the-foodstuff is going to be an Integra-l part of life here for our trip. With a side order of “does that come hot or cold?” sprinkled with “is it sweet or savoury?” and a portion of “is it raw or cooked?” to go.

Or maybe it’s the jet-lag talking? It’s hard to tell anything just yet.

Or maybe this is what culture-shock feels like?

And we haven’t even mentioned the world’s largest aquarium and world’s largest Ferris wheel: it’s been that kinda day.

PS: World’s largest Ferris wheel at 112.5m? I think not Osaka… Big wheels

Osaka Ferris Wheel


PPS: Feel free to read back the above and see if you can spot all the Honda passenger car references. No prizes, just for fun.


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What time is it? Korean time

Funny old thing jetlag. It’s been a while since the 4 Beers have registered on the intrepid scale, but jetlag is telling me that we’re up to something right now.

We bordered Asiana 522 at 20.40 last night and now it’s 16.40 in Seoul.  11 hours later.


OZ522 at LHR 2nd April 20`7

Still, it was a pleasant enough flight and although a 21st Century temple to where-in-the-world-could-be-anywhere airports, the good burghers of Incheon like to put on a show.

A reenactment of a royal procession, a string trio & piano and local soloists. Surreal.

To think a couple of hours ago we were 37,000′ over Ulanbataar.

Let the adventure begin: next stop Osaka!

Somewhere over Mongolia

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Glamour-puss? Moi?

Spoilier alert: there is nothing glamorous about this blog. (Well, okay, the last line is a tease, but that’s all.)

Sat here in a 4th floor Hilton eerie the Thames is all but invisible due to the light pollution flooding from empty offices, distribution centre truck parks, the QE (Dartford) Bridge with its 4 lanes endlessly streaming traffic with headlights aglow and all manner of electric light.

There is even a corking full moon yet it’s somewhat wasted on these industrial lands of Norf’ Kent innit. So much so that it has finally given up competing with man made illumination and skulked orf behind the clouds.


Opening the window a crack – restricted, one imagines, in case I get an irrepressible urge to climb onto the ledge and toss myself off* – the sound of tyres thundering on tarmac rushes in to greet me. Thus the scene is robbed of any potential Blade Runner romance. Whilst it’s no war zone, granted,  it is more than a little dystopian. I count the lanes for traffic. Including the convoluted Dartford Tunnel layby and dual carriageway parallel to the M25  there are 16 or so. Local boy racers are re-enacting Fast & Furious scenes nearby in some seriously expensive motors replete with race-spec exhausts. (I don’t imagine it’ll be girl racers, do you?)

By day I am working in an office that is a pebble-lob-over-the-security-fence away from the Thames Estuary. As it was sunny I strode out at lunchtime and with some difficulty found my way to the shore. Having visited here at least 1/2 dozen occasions the locals have never, never, mentioned the mighty waterway lapping the shore the other side of their wall. I had to find my way over the embankment to prove it existed. Their building has a fully glazed side that overlooks the dual carriageway. Behind them is this:


I must be odd. I want to sit and watch the world float by. Everyone else is hell bent on getting a pre-packed sandwich from Asda and SnapChatting.

*I didn’t. I had a hot bath and a cup of tea instead. Then watched SS-GB on iPlayer.

We head to Japan & South Korea soon. How will it compare?



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Valentine for one in Grand Central Glasgow

I don’t go in for the whole “set piece” Valentine thing – much to Mrs B’s chagrin – and that makes it any old Tuesday night. This particular evening finds me here in central Glasgow. When I say central, I of course mean The Central. The Grand Central Hotel to be precise. (The Central if you’re local.)

6936glasgowgrandcentralhotel_pic1This imposing edifice is 15 minutes from the airport on the (gobsmackingly otherworldly friendly) 500 Express bus. Free wifi, a smile, travel advice, toe massage, all-in for £10 return. [One of those is an optional extra. Where’s m’streotype slopy shouldered grumbling jobsworth?] Walking across the street to the entrance the exterior of the hotel is a Queen Anne style facade which is up there with the other Great British termini: St Pancras, The Balmoral, Swindon… The interior doesn’t disappoint either, it’s all rather dashing and of it’s elegant time. Restored in 2010 it is a credit to the hotelier.

FUN FACT: The world's first long-distance television pictures 
were transmitted to the Central Hotel in the station, 
on 24 May 1927 by John Logie Baird. 
Unfortunately the folk in London didn't buy their telly until 1974
so the event was a bit lost on them.

The reception staff are charming, helpful and have all the time in the world. (A difficult illusion to pull off I’d say.) As the hotel follows a linear floorplan my room is approximately one mile away from the lift above platform 9 ¾ and stiflingly hot. Flinging up the sash window all of a restricted 2 inches – ow! – the station canopy reveals itself and the kitchen exhausts bellow below.

Dammit, I want chips. NOW.

I ditch my kit and head out. 10 minutes and countless “spare any change there pal?” encounters later I am stood in the cavernous Bosphorus Turkish restaurant. Alone. When I say alone, I mean ALOOOOONNNNE. I walked in the door, noisily climbed the metal (indoor fire escape) stairs and waited for someone, anyone, for a good few minutes. It was starting to get a little zombie apocalypse. Click the link above, the piccys don’t do it justice. It’s spacious. Spooky even. Eventually the shopkeeper appeared. Although there was a touch of the Mr Benn, he was more long lost uncle in character – he was that friendly – and soon I am filling my face with delicious Turkish scoff.

The big advantage of dining out for one? No “helpful” commentary/advice. So it’s ARNAVUT CIGERI followed by BURSA KEBAB with a parsley salad, bulgar rice and some hummus on the side. To finish a syrupy coffee – mind not to drain the cup for fear of a gritty finale – and – natch – Turkish Delight.

When I say Valentine for one I really mean it. For the duration of my meal I was the sole occupant of the establishment leaving 179 seats free for lovers. I leave a tip and clank gracelessly down the echotastic staircase taking my newly engorged food baby tum into the night.

So vibrant is the centre of this town!  Couples on their way out in high spirits. Such fab buildings, great lighting, funky bars, so many talented buskers – including a kick-ass jazz drummer who got my coins – and so very many homeless. The latter sadly conforming to every caricature and heart wrenching cliche you might imagine.

How easily we ignore these poor sobs. How few further steps of my walk to cast off their memory.

Rounding the corner to the Hotel pondering a nightcap I consider taking up a skulking, brooding corner of the Champagne Bar in an ironic anti-romance fashion. “What about the homeless eh?” I’d hiss through gritted teeth. But I’d only spoil the look of the place and put off the other punters on their special night. I mean look at it:


Splendid Champagne Bar at The Central

By the way, Mrs B is out on a “date” checking out par-tay venues nearer home.

How lucky we are to have each other.

Even if we are three hundred and thirty three miles apart and I stink of chili, raw onion and garlic.



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Sandbanks: deserted in December

This gig is my second “tour of duty”in the area. I write then as an accidental “resident” of the Sandbanks in December. I notice myself falling into a diurnal rhythm. A repeat breakfast from one narrow section of the buffet. Drinking fruit tea. Going for the same run three mornings in a row.  Most peculiar.

The latter was averted this morning by walking instead of jogging. (I paid attention to what my fine athletic physique was telling me . IE: Woke up aching all over. Don’t run, you fool.) And what a splendid morning for a stroll on the beach: 12C, still and glassy waters. Sunglasses donned I head out toward the Haven. The client requires me to attend their evening shift so what else can I do with my mornings?

A tractor grooms the beach, back and forth, so it looks pristine and the only thing that marks me out as an interloper is the absence of a pooch. The beach is laughably quiet and would be totally empty if not for the dog walkers. (Unlike the town centre and shopping parks which are thronging with retail hell.) It’s also clear that every hound is having an absolute ball.

Note to self, come back as a Sandbanks dawg in the next life.

Out and about at this more sedate pace I reflect on the odd nature of this neighbourhood. As is well known, there’s no shortage of money here. Ker and indeed, ching. Some of the properties are cartoonish: their scale, their use of lavish materials, their design language and their, well, egomania. Some properties scream “look at me“. This is point is empahsised by the occasional 1930s detached house which look like a misplaced model village exhibit amongst the uber-pads. The other thing that strikes me about these monster des-res is that so many of them are dormant. No signs of life: no lights, no Christmas decorations, no one enjoying their dream house. The only activity seems to be from tradespeople whose vans abound. Presumably they are busily maintaining the properties in 100% shape for the 2 days that their time poor owners can spend there.


Nuclear attack surprises Sandbanks dog walking fraternity


On my way back into the reception area I – literally – bump into Peter Duncan of Blue Peter fame. There are many people milling ahead of a kiddies Christmas party. I make a quick staircase to my room.


Damn, should have asked him for a Blue Peter badge.

To temper my disappointment, it’s a treat to read on a sunny balcony. Not only that, the Vitamin D clearly helps my grey matter. (Concise Crossword NAILED.)

[Sigh] It’s been a week of “what to do?” fresh air mornings and long, long, long office bound evenings. Will be almost strange to go back to “real life” in Wiltshire.

I wonder if the myriad of Grand Designs properties will be utilised during the festive period, because most of them show zero signs of life…

What a waste.



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