It’s been a good day.

The intention was to spend it revising for Monday’s big exam. As it happened, I only got started at at 7pm in the end.

I don’t know what it is, but I’m putting up more resistance to this Japanese language exam than any up till now. I have no reason to be confident …do I feel confident? Or am I just using denial as a way to cope with the stress? That’s more likely to be the case. But there is a part of me that is confident. I’m Joseph, I know what I know, and what I don’t know, I don’t know. I will do my best, and I will try hard. I will be happy, or rather, I will accept the results without regret, because I know that what I have done (or not done) in terms of revision, has been just right.

The speech contest really has had a phenomenally powerful effect upon my feelings towards my command of the Japanese language. It’s only ten minutes – but bloody hell! I can do it! 5 years ago I could barely speak a word of the language! I’m so fortunate to have such supportive teachers, such a supportive partner, and such supportive parents.

It’s two weeks until myself, mum and dad drive to London for the Big Event. Tonight, I did my first proper run-though ‘in public’, all suited up, in the lounge with an audience of two. The first time I was a bit of mess, getting it all mixed up in my head, forgetting bits, even though I KNOW IT! I paced the floor a bit, and waggled my arms willy-nilly style. Of course, I was oblivious to this.

Mum and dad were excellent critics (also good proof-readers for essays on famine in China! As they know nothing about the subject they couldn’t comment on content, but they could point out quite a few grammatical errors and typos – anyone who reads the Mumble often will know how necessary it is for me to have my work checked! ).

As many of you know, my father was a head-teacher for about 35 years, and thus has a lot of experience of public speaking. He’s also great at providing constructive criticism. having taken on board a whole list of comments I ran through it again, and I must say, it went so much better. As with my interview exam, the important thing is to strike that balance between ‘the Japanese way’ and the Joseph in me. Joseph is happy, Joseph likes to connect with his audience, make them feel a part of it all.

I’m beginning to develop a strong picture of myself down there on the stage. Having seen videos of the competition in previous years I kind of know what to expect. I can see myself at the front of the lecture hall. I’m wearing my tie, but not standing behind the lectern. And if I adjust my point of view, there I am looking up at a big room full of people. It’s kind of scary, but I like it. I can feel the energy. I’m going to give a great speech, and they’re going to love it!

Huge progress made at home today – mum and dad are going to enter the Broadband era! Currently, they have my first ever pc which is running Windows 98 – and are on dial up. Remember that? It’s painful. Slow, and expensive. So, this afternoon I popped round to a neighbour’s house to ask them about their service with Tiscali – what did they reckon, was it reliable? Certainly was. This was confirmed by my bro in Devon too. And they’re cheap! We get a free modem, free wireless router, free phone calls 24/7 (including those to US/Australia and 5 other countries) ‘free’ line rental …all for about £28 a month. This actually works out cheaper than NOT being on broadband as basic BT line rental is about 12 quid a month, then you have phone calls on top of that.

They also need a laptop, otherwise, they just won’t use it as the computer is in a cramped cold room upstairs. Oh, and the Windows 98 PC doesn’t even have an ethernet port…!

Really, they want a Mac (with Screen Sharing, technical support would be a doddle), but at £602 (cheapest Macbook with educational discount) it’s a bit beyond their budget. So, we’ll get them started with an old refurbished Windows laptop from some local business.

It’ll be great to have them online (not just so I can connect when I visit!). At the moment, reading emails from friends all over the world is a chore (go up to cold room, wind up Windows 98, dial up to 3bytes per hour connection etc), but if it was as simple as opening a laptop whilst sitting in the lounge, or lying in bed, well…

So, exciting times.

Anyway, sleepytime for me. Long day tomorrow. Revision in the morning (REALLY!) and then a train up to Sheffield. I’ll be staying there exactly 48 hours before returning to the Welsh garden project / retreat. Selfish? Perhaps, but sometimes, you just have to look after No.1, because if No.1 collapses, No.1 won’t be no use to no-one.