Tuesday, 22 January 2013

just a coffee

Hello again from an unusually grey and damp Busan. Winters are supposed to be sunny here  and generally they are, but not today. Time is flying by, autumn has come and gone as well as a trip back to the UK for Xmas. Time for a bit of reflection as we head into another new year.

This blog entry's title refers to what we have for breakfast twice a week. Not sure if i mentioned it but Bob and I have been doing the 2:5 fasting thing - Tuesdays and Thursdays, just 500 calories. It worked well until the lead up to Xmas and during the holidays and is surprisingly easy to do. We decided to do it for the health benefits proposed by Michael Moseley on the Horizon programme, BBC (always to be taken as gospel) and losing a bit of weight is an added bonus. It doesn't seem to be doing us any harm so far but i am a bit tired of telling people about it and justifying it, so consider the subject closed! Needless to say, one of the benefits of this kind of regime is being able to eat doughnuts 5 days a week!

During Bob's birthday weekend, i went to Tokyo for a workshop. I had a great time (and so did he, don't worry!) Japan is a lovely place: interesting, lively and full of the politest and friendliest people - even in the capital! I had such a great time, we decided to go back during the November break. Everyone we know seems to have been to Hiroshima so in keeping with our contrary natures, we decided on Nagasaki. It was a great choice.

I had read the Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (David Mitchell - no, not the funny one) and wanted to see what i imagined would merely be the spot where the setting for the book, the island of Dejima, had been. I was so excited to see that the whole island was being preserved and restored. It was the first thing we saw when we arrived in Nagasaki and i was very happy.

We did all the touristy things, including a very sobering morning at the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park. The tears started when i observed a group of school children saying individual prayers and hopes for peace, followed by singing, led by one of the students. What made me cry, apart from my general propensity to this kind of behavior in public? I hate to think it was the sound of so much hope coming from the mouths of children and the cynical thought that such ideals as peace and an end to the nuclear threat would probably not be listened to by the adults who make decisions on our behalf. We don't listen to children enough. It's no wonder most of us become cynical when we grow up. My cynicism ebbs and flows, but after these few days in Japan, a little hope had definitely been restored.

feast for 1 at the Basho
buttocks on parade
The food was delicious and we found some great little isakayas (like tapas bars) where the atmosphere was animated and there was plenty of choice of saki. We also saw a Sumo Tournament in Fukuoka before we left. When i had been in Tokyo in September, my friend and i had only seen an hour and a half, so this time i persuaded Bob we had to watch it all day. We had an overwhelming choice of empty seats for the first 3 hours but the range of shapes and sizes competing in the earlier stages was comical to behold! I'm an established fan, now. It's a shame that this form of live entertainment seems to be on the wane in Japan. Luckily, while there are tourists and die-hard fans to watch it, it is likely to continue.

I also got to go to Beijing for a workshop in November. It was a good course and we had some time for a spot of sight-seeing too! Thankfully the Beijing air quality behaved itself for the weekend and sunshine and blue skies brightened up our wanderings in the crisp winter afternoons. The Imperial Palace was as stunning as i remembered it. We also ate delicious food and went to an acrobatics show. I just said wow, over and over and worried that everyone was going to fall on us in the front row!

So, that's the personal professional development money spent for this year (and last) so the mini break fund will have to come out of the R & R allowance from here on in. (Joke! senior management colleagues, Joke!)
Seriously though, it has been great to go to workshops for a bit of training, but it would be so much easier if they were closer to home (and i don't mean the UK!)

The end of term festivities were fun, more whisky was tasted, wine consumed and noraebangs (karaoke rooms) filled with unspeakable screeching. Bob broke his hand along the way, and we limped along to the end of term, just about in one piece. Fog at Gimhae airport threatened to keep us on Korean soil for longer than we intended but, thanks to Korean efficiency and practicality, we managed to get home to Blighty only a few hours later than planned.


We arrived in the UK, tired and happy to be seeing family and beautiful scenery. Jet lag and gloomy, rainy skies ensured we slept a lot for the first few days and Sleeping Beauty seemed an appropriate choice of panto. We stayed in a lovely house in Rhossili and enjoyed being hosts for a change over Xmas. We went out in all weathers and just loved being in familiar surroundings, every break in the clouds was duly hailed as a minor miracle, how blessed we were to be reminded the sun was up there!

 After a great New Year's eve in Cheddar - we gate crashed the party in the King's Head, all fancy-dressed up and ready to groove - we went on a gloriously muddy, but sunny, walk on the first day of this year. That final, sunny day had us hankering for the bright, blue skies of Busan again and we were really glad to be heading east again. 

me and my nan
 2013 has already brought events that unhappily emphasize the huge distance that separates us from the ones we love. Hearing my mother telling me the sad news over a bad line that my nan had died was hard. It was a comfort that i had seen her a couple of times during our trip home and that i had hugged her tightly. I must have known when i asked Bob to take this photo, that there was a strong possibility her 92 years might not stretch to a further visit. She was ready to go, she made that quietly clear and it was a peaceful end. I wanted to hug my mum, i still do, but i trust my sisters to do it doubly tightly for me. 

Sun setting on my birthday
And so to my advancing years! Last Saturday, I reached the rather unpleasant sounding 45 year mark (i never did like numbers in the 9 times table!) I celebrated by walking up the local mountain with a group of students from school. They were great company and the views as clear and as stunning as ever, especially the sun shining on the sea. I then celebrated properly by enjoying a 'few' drinks with friends and yet another Noraebang had to bear witness to drunken attempts to keep up with unfamiliar lyrics set to bizarrely incongruous background video images. Thankfully, there had been a decent band at the bar before and they had marked the occasion in much better style. They sang a song which has already featured twice on nights out since last August. The line, 'Home is wherever i'm with you' is still true and its meaning is just as strong now, whoever it refers to, family at home, family here, home.