Monday, 31 December 2012

The Good, the bad and the ugly

After 4 years I finally had the opportunity to exorcise the ghost of my worst gig experience ever – when  Roddy Frame finally returned to Cadogan Hall in  London.  I had horrendous flashbacks when a choral choir moved through the audience and took to the stage.  I started to panic, was history about to repeat itself in the most cruel of ways? I daren’t look at the tickets, I didn't even want to look over at Mrs B.   Gulp…..What self respecting pop star has choral music as support ?

Well Roddy Frame apparently –

It came as a huge relief when Roddy made his way onto the stage, just a guitar in hand.  What followed was a couple of hours of musical perfection.  The audience was littered with pop stars – Tracy Thorn and Ben Watts (Everything But The Girl)- were sitting directly in front of us, while Edwyn Collins (Orange Juice) was just below – testament to the high regard that Roddy Frame is held in by his fellow musicians.

On the way out we stopped by Soho Square to get some pictures of the Christmas Lights. Seeing The Beast, a Spanish Lady asked if I would mind sending her some pictures as she did not have a camera with her. I happily complied but I am disappointed that she has not even bothered to reply and thank me for sending through some pictures….I didn't think the shots  were that bad…..

Mrs B had dreams of a skiing in a nice picturesque Swiss or Austrian village just before Christmas. We deliberately left booking late, to make sure there was good snow. A reasonable plan, apart from when we went to make a booking - anything even half decent in Switzerland and Austria had gone. So it was back to France – This time Alpe D’huez – Loads of snow but it is certainly not the most attractive of ski resorts. 

Disaster –
While Mrs B has always been a more stylish skier than me – I have always won the speed battle and sure enough on 5 out of the 6 days I managed to win this time…..However on the other day Mrs B not only posted the fastest time of the day (Using Ski Tracks – an app for Smart phones – which I suddenly have doubts about the accuracy of) but managed to post the fastest time of our holiday 60mph….while I only managed a pedestrian 58mph….Aaaarrrggghhh.

Oh the shame.

I would love to report that my style improved enough to make up for it but I doubt it very much. My only victory was my two falls to Mrs B’s three. Mrs B seemed to get taken over by the spirit of a mean golfer who manages to conveniently forget to count a number of duff shots. She admitted to 3 falls but I think there were probably more as I saw a couple of ones that did not match the descriptions of the three she admitted to. I think her best fall – a face plant and 20 foot slide was a deliberate attempt to prevent me beating her week’s speed record…. clearly her cunning plan worked.

For the record, my first fall was when a mountain restaurant jumped out in front of me with no warning.  It took me out in a puff of snow and a manly scream (Mrs B claims it was more like a little girl’s high pitched squeal – without recorded evidence I’m going for a manly roar – it was probably the cowardly restaurant that squealed . And the second was an ill-advised drop into a snowy bowl which ended in complete disaster, leaving me stranded for long enough for Mrs B to whip out the Mega Mini Beast and record my shame ….

While this may not look like a victory I'm taking it
2 falls to Mrs B's 3 (probably more)
Always check for small imprints in the snow….
These days we tend to book catered chalets, a very civilised way to ski….We met a couple on the slopes who confirmed to us that we need to avoid staying in Chalets which have young children at all costs – after we booked we were advised that there were children already booked into the chalet we had selected and did we want to move to one of the alternative chalets that they had for adults only – we most certainly did.  As it happens the couple were staying in the very chalet we had originally booked  – one night we ran into them in town and after failing to get into a local bar for a drink (it was closed) we went back to their chalet.  While their kids had gone to bed their Nanny sat in the Chalet surrounded by what can only be described as Armageddon – The only thing missing was the hoof prints from the four horsemen of the apocalypse…….

The nightmare before Christmas
 Christmas Eve turned into a complete nightmare – Mrs B had gone to work and left me with a list of last minute bits to pick-up for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. No pressure other than the shops (including supermarkets) were closing at between 5 and 6pm. I spent a good hour looking for my wallet and then realised it was in Caruthers (our BMW) that Mrs B had driven to work…..yes, the wallet which included all my cash and credit and debit cards….

The postman saved me as a new bank card for Mrs B flopped onto our door mat. I rushed out to get cash (don’t worry it was for our joint account, I wasn't robbing Mrs B blind) and in my haste forgot to activate the card – back home and half an hour of frustration as I first tried to phone through to activate the card– only to find the system overloaded. Next step was the internet and more frustration as the only message I could get from the site was – “Error with card please call through to activate”…..Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock….time was running out…. I then got a break as our friend Joe called to wish us a Merry Christmas. Once he found out about my plight he immediately told me to get in the car, meet him in town and he would get some cash out for me…. Phew…..

First stop the Post Office to pick up a couple of parcels … this went surprisingly well – no queue..
Waitrose didn't have everything so it was off to Sainsbury’s and M&S – a good hour in hand. This last minute shopping was a breeze…

I had time for a quick pick me up coffee – only just as I entered my favourite café they were exiting – early closing…Doh!

Oh well, enough time to drop in to the O2 mobile shop – to remonstrate that my 3G had not worked since I changed my account (to upgrade the amount of data I could down load ) 2 weeks previously.  Apparently I now had unlimited use, just as long as I didn't try to use any of it…..  

O2 member of staff  - “Can I help you Sir?”

Me – “Probably not,   I'm a little unhappy with your service,  I've not had 3G on my mobile for over 2 weeks”

O2 member of staff  - “Can I look at your phone?”

Me – “Sure, not that it ever seems to help”

O2 member of staff  - Pushes a few buttons - “You do realise that you don’t get 3G everywhere?”

Me -  “Yes but I expect it to work in the same areas as my wife’s phone….”

A few more taps

O2 member of staff  - “There you go Sir, the 3G was turned off”

I decided not to argue*, just muttered about it being a bad day, thanked him and slunk out of the shop…..

* OK I should have checked that I had switched it back on before going into the shop but  I can assure you that after spending an hour previously in the same shop (with a different member of staff), a couple of hours on the internet and another hour on the phone …..One sim replacement and both sims having been checked in the phone shop’s model  - 3G had definitely not been working on my account….

As I was heading for home I  discovered that I had lost my VW Key (our Golf never really had a name – but after 13 years and well over 120,000 miles I guess “Old Reliable” is as good a name as any) – I've had to keep the VW key separate from the rest of my keys for some time now as it kept slipping off my key ring and attempting to escape - Perhaps it is the “One Key” and it is attempting to return to its evil master ….

“One Key to rule them all, One Key to find them,
One Key to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”

Since I spend half my life looking for keys, basically as a break when I get fed up looking for my wallet.  Perhaps the Key has the power to render itself invisible rather than the user ….

Unfortunately the key managed to escape from my pocketses  (This makes me sound a bit like Gollum – if you had not guessed it we caught up with the Hobbit just before Christmas..),  while I was fishing shopping Gulp… at least I had the emergency plastic key that allowed me to get back into Old Reliable and get home.

Not being sure what to do about lost keys I called the local Police station.

They were closed, apparently no crime takes place in Bishops Stortford after 6pm…. Hmmm

I was put through to a central number – I explained my dilemma and was informed that I needed to report it to Hertfordshire’s central lost property office.

They put me through….

The central lost property office were not interested and told me to go to Bishop’s Stortford Police station when crime resumed play after Christmas….

It’s a tricky issue, losing a car key in your local area – If someone of a less than honest nature gets hold of it just getting a new key is hardly the sensible approach.  Every time Old Reliable  gets parked in the town centre there would be a good chance it would be the last time we saw it ..... Still, I clearly had a few days to risk it as the police had given crime a couple of days off….

Once the shops were closed I decided to go back to town to see if I could find the key in the now empty car park…. Stupid as that sounds, with very little chance of finding the key, it turned out to be a good decision and I found it a couple of bays away from where Old Reliable had been parked – Phew, a good ending to a troubling day…

So 2012 ends in typical BlackLOG fashion – not exactly my fault but fairly embarrassing all the same.

Have a good New Year, hope your 2012 was as exciting and fruitful as ours….

Photo Finish

Roddy Frame
"Deep and wide and tall"

I'll leave you with some festive pictures from Sloane Square
I thought they were at least worth a thank you.....

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Stand and Deliver -a photo pass or your wife

I found myself being transported back to the 80’s last week, having purchased tickets to see one Adam Ant.

Adam and I have had a somewhat chequered past, none of which I stress was his fault. The first girl I asked out (yes there was life before Mrs B) was a huge fan. While he had stunning good looks and worldwide fame in his repertoire, I brought knobbly knees and severe acne to the negotiating table.  I guess I never really stood a chance.

Being at an all boys school meant my exposure to girls was limited to my sister and her fairly snobby (in my opinion) friends. Not an ideal dating pool for a younger brother. I spent weeks (it felt like years) trying to pluck up the courage to ask out the goddess that lived at the bottom of my road – next to the pet shop where we got our cat at the time –Tabitha (this point is not important other than the cat lasted a hell of a lot longer than this relationship but in the end the cat left as well). My excruciating efforts to ask her out (no not the cat) somehow worked – analysing it years later I expect it was a pity date and the quickest way for the poor girl to get the stammering idiot out of her long flowing locks. It almost went wrong from the very start as I had to ask her her name (You have to remember this was before the days of the Internet so no opportunity to stalk people to find out even the most basic of details). ‘Marian Crump’ was her response - I can’t remember if I managed to keep a straight face*, I’m guessing I did because the date went ahead.

* Now before you tell me to stop acting like an overgrown schoolboy – give me a break, I was about 15 and totally out of my depth…..

The date
Hmm it could have gone better – my choice of film was possibly not the best – a nice romantic double header of Jaws and Jaws II (yep your eyes did not receive you – I took the object of my desire to see a romantic movie about a giant rubber fish snacking on anything that moved. My chances of ending my first date with a kiss was sealed before the shark had got through snacking on her first victim – I guess a Zombie Movie would have been equally as bad.)

The only appropriate thing about taking the young lady to a double header was the date itself also turned out to be a double header being as it was our first and last date…. Crashed and burned – Perhaps I should have taken her to see The Towering Inferno. Things that I remember from the date:
  • Her name obviously 
  • A very painful bus ride on the way to the cinema, awkward silence interrupted by moments of almost conversation.
  • Standing in the rain as we queued for the film.
  • Finding out that she was a huge Adam Ant fan – how on earth did that slip into the non-conversation.
  • An even more painful bus ride home. A more awkward silence that even a deaf person would have been uncomfortable with was finally broken when Miss Crump swore – Her older brother had just got on the bus with some of his mates.
  • Praying for the return of the awkward silence as her brother mercilessly ripped the piss out of us.
  • Realisation after we parted that I would have to walk past her house almost every day….
She went back to idolising Adam and his Formicidael family – While I moved on to ….well………. The Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds, Small Faces – apparently when I came out of our date from hell musically I headed off in the wrong direction…. Instead of reaching out to the contemporary groups of the day - Duran Duran, Dépêche Mode and indeed Adam and the Ants, I retreated back to the 60’s to lick my wounds. I didn’t actually get back into 80s music until well into the 90’s.

I’m not ashamed to say that Adam made it onto the iPod and gets an airing every now and again ….which turned out to be not such a good thing. One of my trusted methods of breaking the news to Mrs B that I have purchased tickets for a gig, is to start subliminally playing the music every hour of the day for a month beforehand. After a couple of days of Adam Ant music Mrs B casually looked across and said “Nope, I’m not interested in seeing him”….

I tried a few friends who looked at me aghast – I even thought about tracking down Marian Crump but figured that would have been a very painful reconciliation. I had almost resigned myself to a solo trip when I decided to give my friend Al a call. I didn’t hold out much hope as Al is immersed in Jazz and more grown up music, through her husband Richard. To my surprise Al remembered AA fondly and was delighted to join me. A couple of days later one of my previous enquiries about getting a photo pass came back – The Beast was in - In a matter of days it had gone from just me to three of us…..

My intention had been to take the photos from the balcony, where I had purchased the seats – using a walkway along the edge of the upper circle of the Cambridge Corn Exchange. Unfortunately security were having none of it – and as the photo pass covered access to the Pit for the first three songs, I decided to take my chance at the front…Gulp….. I spoke to Al about abandoning her for the start of the gig and as she was very supportive, The Beast and I made our way down stairs – through the massing throng and into the pit. It felt very strange and I was relieved that no professional photographers were in there with me – it would have felt like I had truly been transported back to the early 1980s and been thrown in with the sharks...

As I got I there a few minutes before AA was due on stage I decided that rather than stand there like a lemon, I would chat to the pushy fans who had made it to the front. Rather disappointingly no one had turned up with the AA trade mark Apache white strip across the nose** (That was Al’s one request – to capture a picture of at least one fan with the stripe.) I can report that there was real warmth and enthusiasm for Adam from the fans – not all of whom were even born when he carried all before him…Pretty soon the lights dimmed and for the next three songs The Beast and I worked our socks off trying to capture the spirit of the show….All too soon our time was up and we retreated back through the standing fans and up to the high level.

** It turned out not even Adam was sporting it – preferring to go for a Pirate look….

The show
For a 58 year old man who has had a few problems over the years (being pronounced as bi-polar is not normally a positive note for your career in the public eye) it was good. His voice was still strong although the athletic movement he was famous for in his youth were not so in evidence. If he had been on Strictly (or Dancing with the Stars to any Americans out there) I’m not sure he would have made it through more than a couple of rounds – harsh but fair). A criticism of the venue rather than AA – it was noticeable that the sound quality on the ground floor was far superior to the balcony. He played most of his hits from throughout his career, with some new songs from his new record which is not due out until next year. Strange - most artists embark on a tour after the record is released. He also played some of the early Adam and the Ant songs, which are a bit more punk in style but were very welcomed by some of the more hard core fans. Overall a good balance. While the band were not his original crew, they were all good musicians.

Record of the Week

Eeek, the music player I has been using has been suspended - so no more music for the moment....or indeed the foreseeable future .....sorry

Photo finish

The results of my Adam Ant photo pass -
Prince Charming

"Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome..."


"Knobbly knees and acne....."

The Crump quickly abandoned me
and returned to her true love....

I never really stood a chance ....

Her loss becomes Mrs B's   pain gain
I managed to talk one fan into using a bit of
gaffer tape to replicate the white stripe....

I'm not sure it quite worked but
 you  get the general idea.

Friend or Foe

"When you're a pirouetting, highkicking
Thigh slapping cruiser
When you're a hipgrinding spellbinding
Clean cut seducer

You have to be careful so people take note
I take it serious, but I still like a joke

I want those who get to know me
To become admirers or my enemies
I want those who get to know me
To become admirers...."

The good the mad and the lovely posse - Lead Guitarist

"Put some wax on the tracks and
slide on outta here!"
from Ant Rap
not to be confused with
Ant Wrap - the snack with real bite....
"So unplug the jukeboxAnd do us all a favour"

from Ant music

The good the mad and the lovely posse bass guitarist

"We're gonna move real good (yeah, right)

We're gonna dress so fine (OK)
It's dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog...."

Prince Charming......

"Ridicule is nothing to be scared of....."

Adam with another of his trade marks
 the duel drums

Georgie Girl And Her Poussez Posse.

Support act and backing singer for AA
Excellent latter needs a little work as former... 

Next week sees me get the chance to bury the ghost of my worst gig experiance ever.....

Friday, 30 November 2012

Lost In Translation

You join us for the final part of our trip around Japan

In case you missed them

Battle Royale - Japan (part 2)

Fire, castles and singed temples
For all its wonderful temples, shrines and castles I can’t help think that some of the World Heritage sites in Japan are a bit of a fraud……Certainly a controversial statement but before you get all huffy and defensive, let me expand my thoughts. Almost without fail, as we either read about or were told by the guides, all these wonderful buildings have been burnt down on an alarmingly regular basis. At each re-build they seemed to have shrunk in size as well….Sounds a bit like the fisherman who claims to have caught a huge fish but sadly it got away before he had time to show it to anyone.  It got to the point where my first question to any  of the guides was “So when did this building last burn down?” The result is that I discovered many of these ancient buildings are actually younger than me…..Blimey, if I was only slightly better put together I could probably register myself as a World Heritage site.

Now, I can just about understand the temples and shrines being made of wood - despite the amount of smoking that goes on in Japan.  It might also explain the passion Japan has for raw food.  I can imagine the conversation going on up and down Japan –

Mum - “What shall we have for dinner?”  

Rest of the family - “Please can we have something hot?”

Mum - “Not today, I can’t face having to move again this week”

The odd thing is a number of the temples seemed to have annual cleaning rituals, involving oversized torches carried by  miniature Monks  who have to single-handily run around the temple complex until either the torch burns out or the temple catches fire….

Then there are the castles….. why on earth would you build your castle of wood?  Unless of course you had a stone wall agreement with any opponents that, during battles, no naked flames would be allowed on the field of play and soldiers on both sides must be very careful during fag breaks…. The reports of regularly re-built castles tells us that either the agreement wasn't reached or if it was, it was frequently broken…..  

The fire precautions left
a lot to be desired.... 
Free Tours
After our Nikko experience (6 hours to see a waterfall) things got a lot better with the Goodwill tours of Japan. If anything, we suffered from “over-service” with our guides – who were so enthusiastic and proud of their cities and towns they were determined to cram in as much as possible – starting off early – normally around 9am and taking us through  until around 5pm – even subtle hints that  it would be nice for a coffee break didn’t seem to hit home.  I tried to slow down the pace by taking lots of pictures, while Mrs B was like a small child scraping her heels and practically lying on the ground in a rigid form claiming “I can’t go on – just leave me here to die”. To little avail, the relentless pace to get us cultured-up, if anything, increased …. So not only do we now know lots about Japan we are also super fit……or would be if only we weren't so damned exhausted….. 
Mrs B just about still standing
and one of our guides....

That's her "I just want a cup of tea
but not green tea face...."
As a break from normal hotels when we reached Kanazawa I had booked us a couple of nights in a Ryokan (which is high on most lists of must do’s on a Japanese trip).  A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn where you get the chance to sleep on the floor and have no furniture other than a very low table and some cushions.  From the outside my selection of ryokan looked like a real winner with the bonus that it was set in the heart of Kanazawa…. Being BlackLOG things quickly went downhill when we entered the establishment.  It looked like it had last been decorated in the 1970’s – lots of Formica and worn out sofas in the shared lounge.  Things picked up slightly when I discovered they had free Wi-Fi (very traditional) and a TV in the room (not that we ever watched anything much on Japanese TV as they had no English speaking channels – how disgraceful is that).  After that, things went terminal. When I booked I knew that there was no en-suite bathrooms and we would have to suffer the joys of shared facilities – what I didn’t realise was that there were only two bathrooms in the entire place (one for men and one for women), covering around 12 rooms for guests plus the family running the Ryokan – potentially 26 people. Convicted murderers get better bathroom odds ….. The bathing facilities were described as being an Onsen (a hot spring bath) but it turned out to be just a small sunken bath in which you are not actually allowed to clean yourself.  As my Italian friend Gina reminded me – don’t forget to wash before you get into the bath…..

Fake Geisha's
I was delighted when we reached Kyoto to see so many Geisha's wandering the streets, offering great photo opportunities…..I should have guessed it was all too easy. I got speaking to some of the “ Geisha's” only to discover it was like a day trip for them – with the girls taking the opportunity to play dress-up for the day…. It’s a bit like thinking you have captured some rare exotic animal in your lens which turns out to be a domestic pet with a slightly exotic hairstyle. 

Top tip for working out if it is a real or fake Geisha

If it is dark and there is an older man on her arm - probabaly Geisha
if it is light and no older man - probabaly fake Geisha

Please note this is a guide and not 100% accurate I would
not bet your Sammuri sword on it yet alone mine....  
The kindness of strangers
While in Kenroku-en, Kanazawa (One of Japan’s finest gardens) we got caught in a rain shower and by the time we had been dismissed from our tour of the garden, we were absolutely drenched.  We dived into a little restaurant for lunch and found ourselves being towel dried (OK, not strictly true but one of the waitresses did indeed come across with a couple of towels – much more welcoming than the traditional British welcome – “Clear off we don’t want xxxxxxx  ). Then as we made our way out they furnished us with an umbrella each – just how nice was that?  May be they were just making sure we didn’t drip all over the next establishment we visited…..

Mrs B’s sense of direction
One thing was very noticeable on this trip  - Mrs B’s sense of direction is getting worse – I was astonished at the number of times Mrs B exited somewhere and shot off in the wrong direction. I blame her recent use of a car satnav for finally destroying any sense of direction that she once may have had. I’ve noticed trails of bread crumbs leading to the edge of our bed but had put that down to some late night snacking….   

A first for me
While waiting for a train I managed to get told off by a platform – Yep you read that correctly, the platform.  How crazy is this country?  The platform obviously felt I was getting too close to the edge….Did it think I was going to jump and was concerned I might singlehandedly destroy the excellent time keeping record of the entire network…. ?     

So that’s it, the end of our trip.  No gadgets purchased, which was a surprise to me and no doubt a delight for Mrs B. Japan is a fascinating country, although a bit more westernised than we had expected – that said we had stuck to a fairly traditional tourist path. The people we met and talked to were almost without question friendly and helpful and we certainly both felt safe.  I would like to go back some day as we didn't get down to Hiroshima or to see the snow monkeys bathing in the hot springs. Both of those were on my wish list but distance (as good as the trains are there is only so much time you want to spend on one) and the wrong time of year (the monkeys only take to the hot water when the temperature dips) worked against us.  The reports of the skiing in Japan are very tempting – some of the resorts actually include a relaxing onsen in the lift ticket price – It’s not clear though if the snow monkeys get to join us in the onsen as I suspect they aren’t daft enough to spend the day hurtling down a mountain with oversized planks strapped to their legs.

Next week -  my second concert photo pass and I get thrown in the Pit.....

Photo Finish 

This week you can find Mrs B
through the round window.... 
 Kenroku-en garden, Kanazawa
Kenroku-en garden, Kanazawa
A rare exotic animal or a Geisha  domestic
pet getting an exotic hairstyle ....  
"An old fashioned till in a wonderful little cafe in Kyoto"
One of approx 1200 deer in Nara-Koen park 
Once considered messengers of the gods - now 
a national treasure - so I didn't get to eat them.
Who wouldn't want to drink this...

Well me for one, I prefer to just pour it over me... 
Sacred lamps in Nara - If I
understood it correctly it was like
ancient advertising. Business would donate
money and have a  lamp  dedicated to them
at a temple and be rewarded with 
prosperity - probably for the temple .  
Less sacred lamps in Nara
Oh look another arty leaf shot - do tell me if you get
bored of them.....
Monument in Nara
It's a bird - if someone knows what type
feel free to let me know....

until then I'm going with
A Japanese great crested tree dweller
- in my world it captures small children 
and helps eradicate unnecessary noise...  
Golden Hall of Kinkaku - Ji - Kyoto
Vermillion shrine gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha - Kyoto
Mrs B 
Fushimi Inari Taisha- Kyoto

Tune in Next week for some Ant Music...

Monday, 19 November 2012

BlackLOG - Battle Royale - Japan part 2

In case you missed it, Part 1 of our Japan trip - Memoirs of a Barbarian

Don’t worry no Japanese school children were hurt (or to be more precise forced to hurt each other – you probably need to be familiar with the film to understand this) in the manufacturing of this week’s blog it just happens to be the title of one of my favourite Japanese films   - (The inspiration for the recent book and film -the Hunger Games) and so ever since our trip to Japan I have been dying to use it as a blog title….

This week sees the second part of our Japanese adventure with more of my mis-observations on a fascinating country….

Raw fish and other interesting foods
I’m quite a fan of sushi but it was a step too far for Mrs B.  I had hoped she would be happy with eating the raw vegetables that I was never going to touch but it turns out it is not just the raw fish that Mrs B has a problem with but also the cold rice that goes with it.  For some reason not many of the restaurants we came across seemed to mix cooked and raw food on the menu – in fact it was only when we reached Narita (which seems to be Japan’s equivalent to Bishops Stortford – i.e. an airport town miles away from the centre of Tokyo) and not expecting much,  where we had one of our best meals of the trip. There was plenty of Tempura and noodle soup on offer but there is only so much  fried food and fancy soup that a body can take …..oddly enough Tokyo has the most Michelin star restaurants on the planet.  Somehow we failed to miss all of them …. 
Don't look Mrs B -

Please note - for those of you of a nervous
disposition, no food was cooked during the
preparation of this photo  although a
number of fish were hacked to death....
It wasn't raw but is was fishy 

- Poor Mrs B 
Tea ceremonies
We endured two tea ceremonies. (The first green tea we tasted was so bad that we thought it was a mistake….It wasn’t……I guess it must be a bit of a an acquired taste.)   The ceremonies were apparently used by Samurai Warriors in preparation for battle.  Quite frankly if I was a Samurai Warrior who had gone through more than one tea ceremony  I would have made damn sure I didn’t make it through the next battle for fear of having to face a third – I’m not sure that it is too much of a stretch of the imagination to link the demise of the Samurai culture to tea ceremonies…..

I think the umbrella is used to hide behind
as you up chuck the green tea....

Japan is a very polite society
There are two main religions in Japan, Buddhism (imported from China along with tea ) and Shinto (home-grown – makes it sound like some sort of Marijuana strain) – which historically was combined in Japan  into “Shinbutsu-shūgō”.  Towards the end of the 19th century the Emperor of Japan decreed that the two religions should formerly separate, pending divorce proceedings but, like a modern day Romeo and Juliet, they continue to meet illicitly behind the authorities’ backs. As far as I could see most Japanese like to practice both, cherry picking the best bits from each – generally Shinto for the good times, Buddhism for the bad – I guess at a funeral it pays to believe in reincarnation…..a kind of end of life hedge betting.
I sometimes wonder does religion use
 incense to disguise the fact that its
 priests don't like to wash
very much... 
As someone who has faced their fair share of, what British Rail laughingly described as train travel in the UK*, it was embarrassing to witness how efficient the Japan rail system is.  I’m not sure I would go as far as the Lonely Planet Guide who claimed the trains were so good you would be tempted to stay on past your destination but then again the Lonely Planet Guide has a tendency to wax lyrical about everything it covers - describing exiting the subway station at Roppongi (In Tokyo) as like entering the world of Blade Runner or Star Wars - personally I found it like exiting any mid town subway station, about as exciting  as a wet Wednesday in Wales...

* Shows you how long ago it was that I abandoned commuting by train and switched to car – In the UK it’s all independent private networks now, which I’m guessing are not a vast improvement other than the rather splendid opportunity to pay more money for less service….. 

Mrs B rocking the Japanese railways 
Sex education

The truth behind how little trains are made in Japan....
Mount Fuji
I never realised that a mountain could be so coy....But it turns out that Mount Fuji,  like a well trained Geisha,  likes to be alluring without actually putting out….
Mount Fuji showing just a glimpse of flesh (or whatever the
mountain equivalent is) as we entered Shin-Fuji
station for our  hours photo opportunity....
What Mount Fuji looked like for the entire
time that we were in Shin-Fuji....

Covered up like a Victorian Nun 
Fortunately we were lucky enough to see it from afar

Fuji as seen from the other-side of Tokyo
In all it's naked splendour....
Tune in next time for the conclusion of our Japan trip as we visit Kanazawa, Kyoto and Nara

Photo Finish 
Some more pictures of Japan

Kyoto sunset...
A truly golden part of the day...
The lovely Madori who I met
at Kanasawa train station...

She educated me to the fact that her hair
did not represent Mickey Mouse** ears
but a bear....

** In hind-site I probably should have gone
with  Minnie mouse.
Possibly the best sign in the world,
honest and informative.....
Like a bridge over troubles waters....

Only the waters weren't that troubled... hey at
least  it was a bridge.  Simon and Garfunkel
 never had this type of problem....  
Noodles, which were followed by  Okonomiyaki
a Japanese pancake.  It probably would have been more
balanced if I had not selected a Hiroshima Okonomiyaki
which turned out to be the noodle version of the
pancake......  Doh!
Bamboo Forest Kyoto
Path to enlightenment....
More Autumnal leaves
Foxy prayers at Fushimiinari-taisya shrine...
It's not the giant lizards that are a problem in Japan
its the giant spiders that will kill you....